An Artful Makeover for Two Bushwick Blocks

Denizen Bushwick is a rental complex made up of two eight-story buildings with a public passageway in between.

The “maker movement” has spawned countless crafting and repair spaces in recent years. So it was perhaps just a matter of time before it worked its way into the amenity offerings in New York City’s luxury housing market.

Denizen Bushwick, a new rental development in Bushwick, Brooklyn, will have not only a wood shop and a darkroom, but labs for laser cutting, metalworking, printing and video production — all located in a vast subterranean co-working space that includes glass-fronted private studios so tenants can peek in on neighbors in the throes of artistic ferment.

And if renters want to display or even sell their wares, there’s a gallery for that, on the lobby floor above.

“We were inspired by the doers and makers in this neighborhood,” said architect Eran Chen, founder and executive director of ODA New York.

His design for Denizen Bushwick, developed by Brooklyn-based All Year Management on a portion of the old Rheingold Brewery site, also stands out for its sheer size. In a neighborhood where small-scale infill development is the norm, the million-square-foot project covers two city blocks and will contain 911 apartments.

The complex comprises two eight-story buildings, one to a block and each shaped something like a capital E laid on its side. The open areas were designed as landscaped courtyards sprinkled with seating of all sorts, to encourage use. The buildings are faced in gray brick and have deep-set windows with rust-colored frames and dramatic diagonal exterior supports.

Between the buildings, a parklike, sculpture-dotted pedestrian walkway, which is scheduled to be completed in eight months, will be open to the public.

There has been local opposition to the project, beginning long before ODA entered the picture. Community members concerned about gentrification secured a commitment for 30 percent affordable housing from a previous developer, Read Property Group, when the site was rezoned to allow the project. After the property changed hands, the number of affordable units was reduced to the 20 percent required by the zoning. Of Denizen’s 911 apartments, 183 will be designated as affordable.

Mr. Chen’s inclination to compare the project to a “European village,” thanks to the sense of community engendered by its many courtyards, balconies and terraces, did not endear him to some. Nor did renderings from his firm that depicted mostly white people enjoying those spaces.

Bushwick, which has emerged in recent years as a more affordable alternative to arts-centric neighborhoods like Williamsburg, is predominantly Latino, with nearly 27 percent below the poverty line, according to the office of City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who represents District 34, which encompasses the neighborhood.

The Williamsburg developer and the Manhattan architect have made efforts to engage the community.

Through a charitable organization that ODA founded, local artists were given grants to paint multistory murals in the building’s glass-sided corridors. From one courtyard you can look up at Rah Crawford’s “We Are Golden,” depicting Bushwick residents including a pigtailed girl with an outstretched arm holding a red balloon; from another, you can see the bright, fluttering birds of the seven-story “ArcoIris de Dreamers,” by Gera Lozano.

The developer has agreed to open the project for evening tours so that members of the community can see the artwork, according to Mr. Chen. A toddler’s playground near a waterfall with a seating area will be permanently accessible to the public.

Of the two buildings, 123 Melrose Street is still under construction, while 54 Noll Street, which contains 444 units, is nearing completion. Leasing is in progress for the latter, with 45 apartments rented so far. Most of 54 Noll’s units are studios, starting at $2,150 a month, and one-bedroom apartments, starting at $2,600. A handful of two-bedroom apartments start at $3,700.

Trey Garrett, a real estate broker from MySpace NYC and the leasing manager for the building, said that many of the first tenants to move in work in fields like fashion, lighting design and film.

He leads prospective tenants from the tavern-like beer-making area — a nod to the brewery that previously occupied the site — to the building’s other amenities.

He said he always concludes his tour up on the lushly planted 60,000-square-foot roof. It offers views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and Long Island City. There’s an urban farm up there, with lettuces sprouting from tower-shaped hydroponic planters.

Plus hammocks, for when all those doers and makers need a rest.

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