Site of Historic Red Hook Sugar Refinery Will House Tech Complex

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Rendering of Red Hoek Point. (Courtesy: Thor Equities)

Brooklyn’s historic industrial waterfront continues its transformation — this time in Red Hook.

Red Hoek Point, an 800,000 square foot-plus “tech-complex” is slated to rise on the former site of the Revere Sugar Refinery. As first reported by Curbed, the project is centered around two four-story office buildings, which will “echo the vernacular” of Red Hook’s industrial buildings.

The new waterfront development will be located next to the IKEA building, and front onto Beard Street, with water on three of its sides. Leasing is already underway, with a projected opening date of 2019. The development will offer 795,000 square feet of office space, and 23,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Two issues to keep an eye on are how many, and what kinds, of local jobs will be created by the project, and what will be its capacity to handle rising sea levels and coastal storm surges. Red Hook was hit by a five foot storm surge during Superstorm Sandy, which flooded out local businesses and residences.

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Possible Beard Street entrance to Red Hoek Point. (Courtesy: Thor Equities)

Red Hoek Point is being targeted towards technology, advertising, and media companies, Curbed notes, with an expected workforce of around 2,600. It will be located just a few blocks from Brooklyn’s largest public housing development, the Red Hook Houses.

The complex will replace the iconic Revere Sugar Refinery, which was reportedly built in 1910 by the American Molasses Company, and stood at the entrance to the Erie Basin within New York Harbor. It remained in operation until 1985. “After a state survey found it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, preservationists had hoped that at least one structure could be saved to be later incorporated into the new development,” the Brooklyn Paper reported at the time of the refinery’s 2007 demolition by Thor Equities.

The scale of what Thor is proposing for the Revere site is permitted by the area’s current zoning, Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, confirmed today. But the developer is seeking two variances which will require approval from public agencies, and offer some opportunity for public input, Hammerman added.

The project will be discussed at CB6’s Land Use Committee meeting on December 22.

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Waterfront development site for Red Hoeck Point — with Brooklyn Waterfront Artists and Still House Group on the left, and IKEA Brooklyn on the right. (Via Google Maps)

Designed by Norman Foster, the Red Hoek Point project will also include a public esplanade along its perimeter, as well as green roofs and a central courtyard between the two buildings.

The esplanade will provide access to the development’s shops and restaurants. The courtyard will be used by pedestrians, and cars entering below-ground parking, Curbed reports. The bases of the new buildings will be brick-clad, and the upper floors will be covered in glass.

Other amenities at Red Hoek Point could include a kayak launch at Beard Street, an amphitheater, food trucks and kiosks, a dog run, and public seating, Curbed notes.

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Courtesy: Thor Equities

Thor Equities says that the development will be accessible via direct water taxi service, buses, and subway shuttles. The planned BQX streetcar line will also be closeby, the developer noted.

Thor made its first presentation of Red Hoek Point to Community Board 6 last Thursday. “While community members had some positive things to say about the project, concerns about a lack of community engagement in the development process dominated the meeting,” Curbed reported.

Thor is seeking two variances from the City, Craig Hammerman told us. The first would allow the developer to provide half (1,100) of the 2,200 parking spaces currently required by the City’s zoning ordinance. CB6 will issue an opinion on the request, which must be approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals. A public hearing will be part of that process, said Hammerman, which will take 6 to 12 months.

Thor is also seeking permission from the Department of City Planning to alter the edge of the bulkhead which will support the waterfront development, Hammerman said. The developer is “seeking to cut back sections of the bulkhead to work with the ebb and flow of the tide,” Curbed explained.

[One of the industrial warehouses that stood on the bulkhead, reported the LTV Squad in 2005, was a “five-story stone and brick structure built c. 1890 as part of the larger Erie Basin complex, [and]  is reported to be one of the last vernacular industrial warehouse buildings to be remaining in this area of Brooklyn.”

For an interesting walk through Red Hook’s industrial history, check out this article in Forgotten New York.]

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A section of the Revere Sugar Refinery seen from the water a year before its 2007 demolition. (Photo: MeanJean via Flickr)

Construction on Red Hoek Point can’t begin until the variances are granted, Hammerman said, but site preparation can proceed.

Will Community Board 6 be weighing in on the broader impact (traffic volume, socio-economic implications, and coastal resiliency) of Red Hoek Point? The Board’s purview is limited because the project is as-of-right, Hammerman reiterated, but CB6 is just beginning to think through the development, he said.

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