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After critical change, city is sweet on Domino

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The city signed off on a new plan that would save the iconic Domino Sugar sign on the Williamsburg waterfront — and also pave the way for a glassy luxury addition atop the century-old sugar refinery building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission greenlighted a redesign for the project on Tuesday, nearly four months after rejecting a previous version that excluded the sign and included unsightly bulkheads.

“The sign is back, the sign will live — we figured out how to do that,” said architect Fred Bland of Beyer Blinder and Belle. “The sign will be on the building, as it always has been, not in a park on the waterfront.”

The approved plan would put the yellow sign in front of the scaled-back rooftop addition, which has receded from five-stories to four-stories on the building’s northern half and three-stories on its southern half — a gesture intended to balance the refinery’s silhouette with the prominent sloped sign.

The trip back the drawing boards proved beneficial for the architects, who heeded the city’s calls to preserve the famous sign — which currently hangs on a building that will be torn down — and to create a more distinctive design for the rooftop addition to the refinery.

“I’m staggered at how fabulously this turned out,” said Landmarks Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz.

“This is going to wind up being one of the crowning glories that will rival the Tate [Modern, an art museum in London]. … I’m glad we gave you a hard time about this.”

Landmarks voted 7–1 in favor of proposal, moving Domino towards a full city land-use overview and a groundbreaking next fall.

But not everyone was sold on the new design.

“The direction that you are going in is moving towards the robust manufacturing [look], but it’s still too polite,” said Commissioner Margerie Pelmutter lecturing Community Preservation Corporation Resources, the project’s developer.

“It’s kind of a genteel approach to industrial robustness.”

The refinery building is actually three conjoined old sugar plants — and it’s a small part a proposed 11-acre redevelopment that includes two 30-story and two 40-story skyscrapers as well as smaller buildings.

The entire $1.5-billion complex will comprise 2,200 apartments.

About 660 of them will be below market rates, including 100 affordable units set aside for residents making only $25,000 a year.

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Reader Feedback

PJ from Williamsburg says:
When I see the Sign I know I'm home.
June 29, 2008, 11:24 pm
Isaac from Harlem says:
The rendering looks great. I am curious to see how the rest of the complex works with the Plant.
June 30, 2008, 6:01 pm

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