The largest neighborhood improvement that Downtown Brooklyn residents were promised as part of the area’s 2004 rezoning is still far off. Crain’s looked into the state of Willoughby Square Park, the roughly one-acre green space conceived to cover an automated parking garage adjacent to City Point, and found that its in a state of uncertainty, with the city’s Economic Development Corp. and the developer at odds over progress at the site.
The EDC selected Long Island-based American Development Group to build the 700-car automated parking garage in 2013 and originally gave the company a 2015 deadline to secure funding, engineering plans, and other components needed for the park. That deadline was extended in kind when it wasn’t met. Now, American Development Group’s CEO Perry Finkelman says the company has been having a hard time securing funding for the garage, which would be the largest of its kind.
The company says it has been seeking to amend the plan with EDC in order to build a smaller 500-car garage. The reduction would slim the cost down from $80 million to $60 million, a number lenders are more willing to shell out following a downturn in the parking industry.
“We very much believe the 700-car garage would have done phenomenally, and that was our goal,” Finkelman told Crain’s. “If we had an institution willing to finance that project, we would build it, but I’m hampered by what the lending market will allow.”
The city, however, says it has entertained a smaller garage and that instead American Development Group is still struggling to secure financing for the smaller project. A spokesman for the EDC says that they’re deciding within the next month whether to replace American Development Group and reopen the rebidding process.
The park and parking garage are still long off, but some work has been done at the site. At a cost of $2.5 million, American Development razed buildings on the half a block the project is supposed to be built on bound by Willoughby Street, Albee Square West, and Duffield Street.
Some of those buildings included rent-stabilized buildings, whose tenants were relocated. With that behind him, Council Member Stephen Levin who represents the area is less than eager about the project. “Frankly, it’s embarrassing,” Levin told Crain’s. “The city took down some residential, rent-stabilized buildings because we were willing to all agree that the infrastructure being built here was for the public good. But obviously, the longer this all goes on and the longer the public good is delayed, the less tolerable it is.”