BY SHANI LEIBOWITZ
Today, Admirals Row, a six-acre site on the corner of Navy Street and Flushing Avenue, sits as a relic of the past. The remains of 10 stately 19th century homes (built between 1850 and 1900) that once housed senior naval officers are now deteriorating, covered with vegetation; the brick façade of Timber Shed (Building 16) built around 1853 for ship construction – reportedly the last standing Timber Shed in the country – is crumbling.
The historic nature of the site cannot be denied, but ever since the decommissioning of the Navy Yard in 1966, the site and all its historic resources have fallen into severe decay. Although that portion of the Yard remained in federal hands, it was never occupied and therefore never maintained.
But now there is new hope. Blumenfeld Development Group Ltd. has been selected by the leaseholders – the non-profit Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC) – to develop the Admirals Row site, transforming it into an active community space, complete with a mixed-use shopping center, anchored by a major supermarket with fresh and affordable groceries, and other retail, office and light industrial business uses.
The BNYDC’s proposal was approved by the City Council and city agencies in November 2011.
The next step is for Blumenfeld to complete the design and construct the roughly $100 million development that will include a 74,000-square-foot supermarket, 86,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space and 125,000 square feet of industrial space. The buildings will maintain the existing street wall that is typical of an urban environment and will also serve to shield a 300-space parking lot.
It will be a few months before BNYDC and Blumenfeld announce which supermarket brand will anchor the site. Potential candidates are said to be able to deliver high quality, affordable fresh produce and maximized opportunities for local hiring and full-time versus part-time employment.
The development will also incorporate two of the existing structures on the site: the Timber Shed and Quarter’s B (aka “Building B”) – one of the oldest quarters on Admirals Row, built prior to 1859, with features from both the Greek revival and Italianate styles (see photo).
BNYDC’s structural engineering consultants, Robert Silman Associates, immediately began developing plans to stabilize these two structures to curb additional deterioration prior to the start of the rehabilitation work. Building B is now completely shored up. Shoring of the Timber Shed will be complete in January 2013. Blumenfeld will also rehabilitate the exterior of both structures to meet the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitation.
In addition to the renovation of the Timber Shed and Building B, the project will incorporate an on-site commemoration plan to recognize the site’s rich history, and also direct visitors to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92 (aka “BLDG 92”) where Admirals Row is depicted in BNYDC’s permanent exhibit entitled “Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present & Future.”
In keeping with BNYDC’s commitment to sustainable development throughout the Navy Yard, Blumenfeld will also design and construct all of the new buildings on the site to achieve LEED Silver certification from the US Green Buildings Council. The site will also accommodate the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway that will run along both public frontages of the development.
In terms of jobs, BNYDC has aggressive community participation goals for the redevelopment of Admirals Row, including 30 percent of the overall contract values awarded to certified minority/women-owned businesses and an additional 10 percent of contracts targeted to local businesses (within designated zip codes). Workforce goals for the construction phase of the project include 45 percent of jobs to be held by minority and/or women and a local workforce goal of 25 percent. A local hiring plan for the supermarket will be developed collaboratively by the developer, supermarket, BNYDC, local elected officials, community leaders – particularly from the local NYCHA Houses – and job training entities. These efforts will also engage BNYDC’s on-site Employment Center. Last year, the Employment Center placed over 200 local residents in jobs both inside and outside of the Yard.
The Admirals Row project is slated to break ground in 2013 and will create more than 500 permanent retail and light industrial jobs. It strikes a balance between preserving critical historic resources and making good on that longstanding promise to the community.