Inside City Tower, the Future of Downtown Brooklyn

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Last week, a photographer and I met with the assistant leasing Manager of City Tower, the second of three residential towers belonging to City Point—the largest mixed-use development in all five boroughs—to take a look inside. The building is in the final stages of construction next to the Fulton Mall, in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.

The City Point development as a whole includes 1.9 million square feet of new construction, including 1,290 residential units spread throughout three towers, a one-acre park—like a Bryant Park for Downtown Brooklyn—called Willoughby Square Park, and a five-story, 675,000-square-foot commercial center containing a Century 21, an Alamo Drafthouse, a CityTarget (like normal Target, only smaller for big cities), and the 30,000-square-foot Dekalb Market Hall, with around 40 local food vendors and an entire Trader Joe’s.

If you are under the climate controlled confines of this sweeping commercial center, you will be oblivious to the 438 residential units that sit, like a cake-topper, right above it. City Tower is comprised of floors 20 through 48, and recognizable by its off-white terra cotta panel exterior. We were curious to see what was inside, as it represents the new kind of home that many people will be moving into in Downtown Brooklyn in 2016 and beyond.
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Brodsky Organization is the developer of City Tower, and this is their first Brooklyn project (they have another currently underway in Morningside Heights). Indeed, walking into City Tower’s lobby feels, viscerally, like walking into a residential building in Manhattan—or at least, Manhattan of a decade ago, when doormen and high-security lobbies were more or less exclusive to that borough.

Once inside you’re hit with a wave of white, and a ton of light leaked through large windows. There’s a security man, a doorman, and a front desk man. We walked over to the front desk, whose front panel was covered in a pastel-hued pastoral scene from Brooklyn’s FlavorPaper (the exclusive wallpaper outfitter of the entire project). Reclaimed wood paneling from Williamsburg also covered surfaces, and there was an enormous circular ottoman surrounded by wooden stumps. It looked like it might be another design element not meant to hold people—but also like they’d be perfect for this—so I asked if I could sit on one and was assured, yes; take a seat.

On the 26th Floor, assistant leasing manager David Hazelwood met us inside City Tower’s leasing office. It’s a converted two-bedroom unit, minus one wall, to make room for a waiting area with a couch, a single-serve coffee station, and a table with thin crunchy cookies. Sweeping views of Downtown Brooklyn and beyond loomed large in the windows. As we waited, in walked a notably-polished couple who seemed interested in viewing a unit.  When Hazelwood met us, he described our tour: we’d see a pre-furnished studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and the “amenity floor.” Though the building is not officially complete, Brodsky has been leasing City Tower units since October, and initial move-ins began in January.

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Each unit varies in price, of course, according to size, building level, and view. However, “Price per square foot is proprietary information,” Hazelwood told me. “Some people like to work out the price per square foot, but we want them to come and take a look and see how they feel inside for their value.”

The studio did not feel any bigger than a standard New York studio—it was small. You walk into a galley kitchen, which opens into a room with space for a bed and furniture. What stood out was the closet and bathroom: the first was a walk-in, the second was giant—for New York. I immediately imagined just stuffing my bed into the closet, which would work, to save more space for living and working. Then, the bathroom came with a dual shower head, mosaic tile, and a big mirrored medicine cabinet. Plus, “None of the appliances touch the ground,” Hazelwood said. “It’s a “floating kitchen.” I didn’t understand what that meant. “Wait, is that good?” I wondered. “It’s just a design feature,” Hazelwood explained, and exclusive to City Tower.

On to the one bedroom. This felt so big that we cursed when we walked inside. Another floating kitchen, and—similar to all units—a washer and dryer. A large living area provided big views of Flatbush and Fulton Avenues, and, in the distance, bridges. The master bedroom came with two walk-in closets. I gasped, and again pictured my bed in one of them. This is when Hazelwood told me square footage information is proprietary; that the feeling of value, rather than the number, is what they want to emphasize (though he added this one was around 760 square feet). As I stood in giant closets aghast that it was the size of my living room, I understood why they would.
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“These are actually my favorite element of the building,” said Hazelwood; he pointed at the windowsill. “Trickle vents. They let in a small amount of fresh air if it’s too cold in the winter to open the window.” The vent was built into the unit, inconspicuously, like a detergent drawer in a washing machine; when not in use, it’s flush with the surface.

Hazelwood took out a Walkie Talkie and asked somone to ready an elevator to floor 26, where we’d see a two-bedroom. With the first step inside, a powerful wave of new-car-smell hit us, more pungent than I’d ever inhaled. This place was remarkable not just for its size—the same as the leasing office—but due to the fact that it had two entire bathrooms with two entire showers. Our photographer lamented it would be nice to take one.

Finally, it was to the tenant amenity floor. I asked about the appliances on our way there. “Each apartment has different appliances,” he said. “There’s Bertazzoni, Blomberg, Jenn Air, to name a few.” The idea is to offer clients variety, he said, fit for each unit. In terms of the washers and dryers, I realized that made 438 of each, all carted to and then stuffed inside of one vertical space, a soaring tower of clean-clothes making convenience.

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On the amenity floor, Hazelwood showed us a board room, for people who work from home, and a very sizable lounge, complete with a kitchen area, ice machine, a living-room like space with couches, plus a colossal flatscreen TV. “But who decides what’s on?” I asked. “First come first serve,” he said. I felt like I stood inside a very nice lake home in the Midwest. It was all that clean and slick.

“You can see a better view of the basketball court from the gym,” Hazelwood told us. We were not sure if we had heard him correctly. “Basketball court?” We had heard him correctly. Abutting the very large gym, and—still under a roof—but next to the outdoor garden with lots of seating and a bocce ball court, there was a half basketball court. Our photographer said she wanted to play basketball. “Come by, we’ll let you in the gym,” Hazelwood offered. And then our photographer told him to be careful what he asked for.

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As we walked out, Hazelwood reminded us that just beneath us was all that commercial activity, plus a subway entrance. In essence you’d never have to leave this place. You could shop, watch movies—maybe you’d have to get Seamless to eat, I offered, but that was not true: I was reminded of the Trader Joe’s that would also be in my basement if I lived there.

Earlier, in the elevator cabin ride to the two bedroom, I asked Hazelwood about who was moving into City Tower, if there were a good number of people coming from Manhattan, or other places in Brooklyn. “It’s not just that but all over the States and even internationally,” he told me. It was one of the reasons he loved his job—he was always meeting so many new people, from around the world. “Everyone who is moving to New York, this is on their radar,” he said. “Downtown Brooklyn has become very popular.”

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