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Silicon On the Waterfront

Silicon On the Waterfront

Courtesy NBBJ

Despite its poor access to public transit, and location firmly within New York’s most threatened flood zone, Italian developer Est4te Four is betting big on Red Hook, Brooklyn. With strong sales at its AA Studio-designed, warehouse-to-condo conversion at 160 Imlay, the developer has unveiled plans for a 1.1 million square foot commercial development right at the water’s edge. The massive project is being designed by NBBJ.

While the design is still in its early stages, initial renderings show a robust mix of adaptive reuse, public space, and new, glassy construction. NBBJ preserves the exteriors of two existing warehouses, but retrofits their interiors. (  

 

Included in this plan is the demolition of some older, industrial structures to make room for six boxy brick buildings with glazed, cantilevered upper floors. Behind masonry exteriors, and expansive steel-framed windows, are workspaces divided by large glass cubes.

Set throughout the entire complex is a new network of walkways, greenery, and seating. Up against the New York Harbor is a promenade outfitted with sleek tables, chairs, and planters. That space connects to a triangle-shaped public plaza that has additional landscaped elements, an art installation, and stepped seating that meets the water. These new public spaces join an existing park and pier.

 
 

As with so many waterfront projects in New York, this site’s proximity to the water exposes major vulnerabilities; during Hurricane Sandy, Red Hook was one of the worst hit parts of the city. The design team is obviously aware of this fact and says they are planning ways to making the complex resilient to future storms. “Central in creating a campus dedicated to innovation is an active and open streetscape which can sometimes be at odds with dry flood proofing techniques designed to resist Mother Nature,” said a spokesperson for NBBJ in an email. “The site’s low elevation creates design challenges that require real engineering solutions and prediction techniques to solve.” Alexandros Washburn, NBBJ’s Urban Strategies Director and New York’s former chief urban designer who lives in Red Hook, will oversee a sustainability study for the site.

There is currently no timetable for groundbreaking, but the project is more than a pipedream. In an email, a representative from NBBJ told AN that multiple investors have already put capital funding into the project, and that construction will start once a major tech tenant is secured.

In the meantime, the first phase of Est4te Four’s project is underway. With AA Studio, the developer is converting an old shipbuilding warehouse at 202 Coffey Street into an arts, educational, and events space.

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