n a cold February morning at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the skeleton of a modern 15-story building was rising from a muddy construction site along the East River. As long and as tall as a cruise ship, the sleek glass structure loomed above rusty, century-old dry docks, serving notice to the industrial neighborhood that the new economy was coming.
The project, known as Dock 72, is the brainchild of WeWork, the fast-growing New York start-up valued at a whopping $20 billion. In just eight years, WeWork has built a network of 212 shared working spaces around the globe. But WeWork’s chief executive and co-founder, Adam Neumann, isn’t content to just lease out communal offices. Mr. Neumann — a lanky, longhaired 38-year-old Israeli — wants nothing less than to radically transform the way we work, live and play.
When Dock 72 is completed this year, if the aggressive timeline holds, it will represent the fullest expression of Mr. Neumann’s expansive vision to date. There will be an enormous co-working space, a luxury spa and large offices, for other companies like IBM and Verizon, that are designed and run by WeWork. There will be a juice bar, a real bar, a gym with a boxing studio, an outdoor basketball court and panoramic vistas of Manhattan. There will be restaurants and maybe even dry cleaning services and a barbershop.
For decades the Brooklyn Navy Yard sat dormant. Once a mecca for wartime ship building, it’s on a voyage to become a billion dollar technology hub.
“We kind of looked out to the next 20 to 30 years and said what’s next for the navy yard? And tried to charter a really ambitious plan for ourselves,” said Brooklyn Navy Yard President/CEO David Ehrenberg.
Ehrenberg heads the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation – a not for profit organization overseeing the development of the yard which is now owned by the city.
It’s undergoing its largest expansion since World War II. Last month, the development corporation unveiled a $2.5 billion plan to create 10,000 new jobs and add an additional five million square feet of manufacturing space.
“Cities need middle class jobs and they need them desperately and we think we provide a huge need in providing a home for those kinds of companies,” Ehrenberg said.
Building 77 alone will house 3,000 employees.
A renovation costing $180 million is complete, allowing the one million square foot building to become – it is hoped – the gateway to the yard.
“It’s creating a unique opportunity within the yard to have the public come in, to have a space for businesses for mix and mingle and for that unique energy of New York,” said Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation Executive Vice President Claire Newman.
This old shipyard is cruising into its next life.
Builders are hard at work finishing five projects that will transform Fort Greene’s once-industrial Navy Yard into a new commercial hub when all are completed by early next year. The developments will boost the job count at the nationally recognized historic site by more than 10,000, bringing the number of workers on the campus to its highest amount since the yard’s days as a ship-building facility, according to a honcho.
“We’re in our largest phase of expansion since the navy left, essentially since World War II,” said Clare Newman, the executive vice-president of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency that facilitates construction projects on the site. “We’re going from 7,000 people working on the yard daily today, to between 17,000 and 20,000 in the next two to three years, which is a pretty extraordinary surge in growth in such a short period.”
Here’s a look at the projects, which are in various stages of completion, going up on the 300-acre, East-River facing campus:
Building atop a landfill — which also acts as one of the new docks for the NYC Ferry system — presented “challenges and opportunities,” explained Michael Rudin, of Rudin Management Company.
The 675,000-square-foot building sits above grade level, atop 400 pilings that go 130 feet deep down through the landfill to the bedrock.
“The lower portion of the building has columns, which support the building and raise it up out of harm’s way,” Rudin said. “Where we decided to go above and beyond: the lobby itself is 8-feet above the 100-year flood plain. Everything below the lobby essentially will be breakaway panels. In the event of a flood or storm, all of that is essentially material that can be replaced. It’s sort of a pass-through for water to pass under the lobby.”
All of the mechanicals are on the second floor, 28-feet above the 100-year flood plain. The utilities are encased in material to make them essentially waterproof, and there’s a generator to power emergency areas along with some tenant needs which can be negotiated upon lease signing, Rudin explained about the building which is expected to lease a third of its space to WeWork.
The “cool factor” looms huge in today’s office leasing. Tenants, especially in creative fields, demand features and amenities such as communal work areas, outdoor terraces, on-site cafés, health clubs and game rooms.
Many new projects as well as some retrofitted older ones are full of bells and whistles that appeal to millennials and creative types of all ages. But Dock 72, now rising at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will have at least one feature that’s not only cool, but unique: a ferry dock right at its feet.
In fact, the new Citywide Ferry Service stop, to open in 2018, isn’t just for Dock 72, a $410 million, 16-story, 675,000-square-foot joint venture of Rudin Development and Boston Properties. It’s a new entrance portal for the entire Navy Yard, a 300-acre, city-owned, modern industrial park between the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.
But those coming to work at Dock 72 might feel the ferry landing is theirs alone, as it’s almost at the building’s front doorstep.