Residents have begun moving into the 64 rental units at The Brooklyn Grand, an eight-story building at 774 Grand Street in East Williamsburg. The 10,857-square-foot ground level retail space remains unoccupied. The 82,888-square-foot project is a collaboration between Kamson Corporation and Grand Street Development.
The Meshberg Group and Gene Kaufman Architects drew inspiration from the borough’s factory lofts. The building’s lower six floors emulate traditional architecture so faithfully that a casual observer may mistake it for a renovated pre-war loft capped with a modern penthouse. In reality, the 12,500-square-foot lot previously housed a single-story department store, which replaced a group of walk-ups some time after 1980 and expanded over an adjacent parking lot in 1996. The drab building, clad in a poorly-aged brick façade, made inefficient use of the busy corner at Grand Avenue and Humboldt Street in the rapidly gentrifying area.
The new building permit was filed in October 2013. The demolition permit was issued the following month, and the lot was cleared by 2014. The reinforced concrete structure rose halfway by the following summer.
The cellar, which holds 30 parking spaces, and the single-story podium occupy the entire site footprint, which spans 125 feet along Grand Avenue and 100 feet along Humboldt Street. The L-shaped tower rises 80 feet to the main roof, which features a deck that opens upon panoramas of northern Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Long Island City. The bulkheads boost the structural height close to 100 feet.
The project scale, appropriate for its location one block west of the Grand Street station of the L train, was made possible by an air rights purchase from the three-story walk-up next door at 790 Grand Street.
The signature style of the Meshberg Group, which specializes in historic renovation and traditional design, is evident throughout both the building’s exteriors and interiors. The popular neo-industrial style frequently applies traditional elements within a contemporary paradigm, but The Brooklyn Grand follows historical precedent with greater deference.
The order of architecture follows the classic base, shaft, and capital model, where an ornamented base and crown provide visual interest at the street and skyline levels. Textured brick features horizontal channels at the ground level, corbels at the fifth floor, and gentle arches above windows at both the sixth floor and at the Humboldt Street wing, which emulates pre-war walk-ups along the block. Slight recesses of the brick façade, combined with stone lintels beneath the windows, create subtle depth. Loft-style casement windows feature dark metal mullion grids that harmonize with the blackened steel awning above the residential entrance on Humboldt Street, and echo the simple but well-proportioned cornice above the sixth floor.
It is unknown how much of the design came from Gene Kaufman Architects, which serves as the architect of record. The Brooklyn Grand is one of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings associated with the architecture firm, which generally specializes in budget hotels styled in eclectic postmodernism.
In contrast with the meticulously crafted lower portion, the design choice for the top two levels is surprising. The asymmetrical façade of plain metal panels and plate glass windows meets the stepped roofline without even a hint of a cornice. In all likelihood, the architects imitated the currently popular practice of adding modern-styled penthouses above re-purposed loft buildings.
The residences, which span 51,256 square feet with an average 801 square feet per unit, channel the loft aesthetic through details such as tall ceilings and exposed concrete slabs.
Despite its inharmonious crown, The Brooklyn Grand stands as one of the city’s most faithful adaptations of traditional architecture and sets a fine model for new development in historic neighborhoods.