It’s a thing New Yorkers do: get all nostalgic about moderately rancid New York-y type things, once said things have either disappeared or been rendered less rancid. There are probably people who really wish that Time Square was still some Taxi Driver hell of sketchy mustachioed dudes and, um, non-traditional cinema, but it has always seemed in the case of Times Square that the nostalgia is less for the actual rancid thing itself than for something as distinctive — even distinctively terrible — as what it was, as opposed to the Universal Orlando theme park o’ commerce (and nascent LEED Gold aquariums) that’s currently there. While there are presumably some New Yorkers who are already nostalgic for Brooklyn’s now-vanished Albee Square Mall — Biz Markie comes to mind — the increasingly real-and-actually-happening LEED Silver City Point development on the former Albee Square Mall site should kick the sentimentality into high gear. Cook + Fox revealed plans for City Point’s first phase — which will include a four-story retail structure and public space tentatively known as Albee Square — last Wednesday. Daniel Doyle has the story in the New York Times. Eventually, City Point is slated to expand to 1.5 million square feet of residential and commercial space.
Stephen wrote briefly about City Point back in 2008, at which time he mentioned that “specific green features for the project are not currently available.” While much has changed for the development since then — most notably $20 million in federal simulus funds that made the project possible (and got it bashed by The Brooklyn Paper) — the specifics of City Point’s greenness has remained vague. Cook+Fox’s green bona fides are beyond reproach, with the Bank of America Tower being just one example of their work, but it’s as frustrating as it is unsurprising to see the first deliverable facet of this very-2007 development — you remember, the ones that would provide hundreds of jobs and affordable apartments and free ponies for all — turn out to be what appears to be a tasteful neo-classical vertical mall. (City Point developer Paul Travis counters the dreaded “vertical mall” label by noting that each building in the retail development will have its own street-level entrance)
There are some signs of forward-thinkingness going on here, most notably through adaptive-reuse plans for the rest of the site involving turning shipping containers into small-scale temporary retail space and workshops until such time as the economy allows for their replacement by, you know, LEED Silver apartments. For the most part, though, whatever its unspecified sustainabilities and bearing in mind that Cook+Fox would never design anything undistinguished enough to fit in with Forest City Ratner’s Brooklyn projects, City Point looks vaguely Ratner-ian in its unimaginative, ham-fisted re-imagining of a neighborhood that was, for all its downmarket dimensions, at least something unique and organic. It’s not easy to get nostalgic for Albee Square Mall, but replacing it with a smaller, more-upscale vertical mall sure makes it easier.