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A New Tower Opens on the Domino Site in Williamsburg

Domino Park opened last summer to rave reviews on the site of the former Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg, and the transformation of the sprawling industrial site continues this month with the opening of a 45-story, mixed-use tower on the edge of the East River.

One South First is the second building to go up on the Domino site. It has a defining presence, partly because it towers over everything around it and can be seen for miles from most directions, including an unblocked view from East Houston Street in Manhattan. But it is also striking for its design, by COOKFOX Architects: two interlocking towers connected by about a dozen floors at the top of the structure. The northern leg will have 150,000 square feet of office space, while the southern leg, as well as the connecting portion on top, will house rental apartments.

The tower’s visual prominence on the northern edge of the Domino site helped boost interest in the apartments before marketing officially began, said Rebecca Epstein, director of residential leasing at Two Trees Management Company, the developer: “We’ve had a lot of people come to us asking, ‘What is that and how can I get in there?’”

The award-winning facade design is an ode to the former refinery, with the white, chamfering precast concrete window frames intended to resemble the molecular structure of sugar crystals. To make the various curves and angles, the precast concrete was set in carbon-fiber reinforced plastic frames — instead of using traditional wood — that were created by large-scale 3-D printers at Ohio-based Additive Engineering Solutions and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a U.S. Department of Energy science and technology research facility.

Dean Gwin, president of Gate Construction Materials Group, the Florida firm that made the window frames in its facilities in Kentucky and North Carolina, said using the new technology, called “big area additive manufacturing,” shaved nine months off the construction timeline.

“You’re talking about the difference between hiring a lot of master carpenters to build hundreds of wooden frames that can only be used several times, versus a 3-D printer pumping out a frame that can be reused about a hundred times,” Mr. Gwin said.

The residential side of the building will have 330 apartments for rent, 66 of which will be designated as affordable housing. The market-rate studios start at $3,795, with one-bedrooms starting at $4,665 and two bedrooms at $6,725. Two penthouse floors will house a total of 30 apartments, available next spring, with higher ceilings and access to private rooftop cabanas.

The building’s base will house several retail outlets, including branches of Roberta’s, the Bushwick pizza utopia, as well as Other Half Brewing, OddFellows Ice Cream and a Two Hands cafe. Building amenities will include a pool and outdoor lounge area, conference rooms, and a fitness center.

Jed Walentas, a principal at Two Trees, said the building includes details that were added after lessons were learned at 325 Kent, which opened in 2017, the first building erected on the Domino site. After discovering that a majority of the residents in 325 Kent worked from home, Two Trees decided to increase the communal work spaces by about 30 percent at One South First. Two bike storage areas will hold 300 bikes for both residential and commercial tenants, and the stairs leading to the basement will also have a bike access ramp, he said.

Some of the residential units will be ready in mid-September, while the office space will likely welcome tenants early next year.

The development site has several more phases that will take years to complete. Next, Two Trees plans to expand Domino Park. The SBSX Pumptrack Brooklyn, an outdoor bike and skate track, will close later this fall and become a one-acre open space that could be used for movie nights, farmers markets and graduations, Mr. Walentas said.

“This site is designed so that it’s immersed in the neighborhood,” he said. As the new buildings are finished, there will be more access points to the park from Kent Avenue so the buildings don’t cut off the waterfront to the public. “We didn’t want to just build condos and then kiss the area goodbye as we sold the homes.”

Two Trees also has started to convert the massive brick sugar refinery into office space, and there will be two additional towers: one on the south end of the site, next to the Williamsburg Bridge, and the other between the old refinery and One South First.

As for the rental market in Brooklyn, it is on stable footing. Median rent in the borough was at a record high at $3,000 in July and the number of new leases that were signed rose 13 percent from the previous year, according to the latest market report from Douglas Elliman.

“Anything on the waterfront in Brooklyn is hot right now” said Henry Mullin, an Elliman agent.

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About Scott Morgan

Scott B. Morgan writes for Debt Management and Real Estate sections in AmericaRichest.

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