The Williamsburg Generator is designed for tech companies - Technical.ly Brooklyn

Apr. 16, 2015 7:33 am

The Williamsburg Generator is designed for tech companies

The first speculative office space in Brooklyn aims to bring a new vibe to Williamsburg. We chat with Gensler Principal Joseph Brancato about how its design aims to accomplish that.
The Williamsburg Generator is planned for 25 Kent Avenue.

The Williamsburg Generator is planned for 25 Kent Avenue.

(Rendering courtesy of Gensler)

Gensler, the giant, worldwide architecture firm, is designing a new office building in the industrial zone at 25 Kent Avenue (we first heard about it as 19 Kent Avenue, early last year) along with HWKN. The 400,000-square-foot building is a project of Heritage Equity Partners’ Toby Moskovits.

The name for the building is the Williamsburg Generator, and its developer hopes to make it the hot new location for the creative, tech and media companies rising up here in Brooklyn.

Technical.ly Brooklyn was able to speak to one of Gensler’s principals, Joseph Brancato, about the plan for the building, and how the design is meant to facilitate tech business.

Williamsburg-Generator3

A rendering of the Williamsburg Generator. (Courtesy of Gensler)

First some background. The site, a full square block, sits one block north of the Amazon photo facility at 35 Kent Avenue. Both sites sit in an area zoned for industrial use. Moskovits wants her distinct and tall-for-the-area building to include a majority of office tenants, however, which doesn’t fit with the spirit of the zone. So the venture will have to seek a special land use permit.

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That said, many people believe that Williamsburg has tipped too far in the residential direction. It’s weird to call the neighborhood known for housing indie rock bands a “bedroom community,” but that’s the direction it’s headed in. Basically, it may not be a tough sell to load one block up with a giant building full of new uses.

For a break down of the landuse issues in play, check out this story from the Wall Street Journal. The current estimate for occupancy is two years from now, according to Brancato. These things have a way of moving around, though.

“With The Williamsburg Generator, we are going to build a transformative technology and maker hub that will set the stage for a new era in Williamsburg,” Moskovits said, in a press release. “As a little girl visiting my grandfather’s factory at Kent and North 10th Street, I never imagined that 25 years later, I would be leading the renaissance of commerce and industry in the neighborhood, tapping into the neighborhood’s heritage of industrial innovation.”

We wanted to understand how the design would facilitate tech activity.

Gensler is among the world’s largest design companies and has worked with some of tech’s biggest brands. Headquartered in San Francisco, Gensler has done multiple sites for Facebook, the Yahoo space in New York and is currently working on Etsy’s new offices, Brancato told us. “When we found out what Heritage Equities had in mind and the type of tenant they wanted to attract,” Brancato told us, “it was clear they wanted the tech sector, maker society culture.”

Williamsburg Generator © Gensler

A rendering of the Williamsburg Generator. (Courtesy of Gensler)

Brancato emphasized that a building of this size is going to need some major tenants. Look for some big companies to come in here, but it’s also designed with small companies in mind.

One interesting piece of how it’s being set up is that floor plans have been designed to fit a big office or many small offices. For floors that will be made up of smaller offices, the design emphasizes communal amenities. For example, smaller companies may share kitchen space. This could both improve efficiency and also provide entrepreneurs with some of that mixing and cross-pollinating the tech sector likes so much.

On the other hand, Brancato says, the building is also designed to grow with its tenants. So if some of those companies find they need more space, it should be a simple matter for those companies to grow in place. “Any good developer wants to have great flexibility in their building so they can attract a wide variety of tenants,” Brancato said.

For the community, there will be more retail space than might have been expected. In order to open the building up, there will be a walkway through the core of the building, at grade. In other words, there will be retail along the sidewalk, as you might expect, but also retail going through the heart of the block, which opens the building up to the people of Williamsburg.

Brancato said that inside the building the space has been left so that tenants can make it whatever they want, but outside Gensler wanted to attract tenants both with brick faces (that evoke the tradition of the area) and glass faces (that give it that modern, open, natural-light feel).

As we reported last year, companies growing past their first funding rounds have had trouble finding space in Brooklyn.

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Companies: Amazon, Etsy
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