Inside the race to build Brooklyn’s tallest tower

It’s a race to the top in Downtown Brooklyn.

The borough’s densest neighborhood has witnessed a development boom that is now squeezing skyscrapers to heights of over 1,000 feet, rivaling the supertalls on Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan.

“Downtown Brooklyn didn’t have much of an identity over the last decade,” said Jared Della Valle, CEO and founder of Alloy Development, who recently broke ground on the Alloy Block, a five-building, mixed-use project in the area.

Now, that’s all changed.

Downtown Brooklyn’s new live, work and play vibe is partly thanks to a 2004 rezoning, which was designed to increase the area’s commercial footprint.

Whereas Flatbush Avenue, a major spine of redevelopment, was once clogged with gas stations, carwashes and XXX shops, today the neighborhood boasts sparkly modern conveniences, like Apple, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as DeKalb Market Hall at City Point. The area’s thriving cultural offerings include BAM, BRIC, the Center for Fiction, Mark Morris Dance Group and Barclays Center.

Dainora Jonusaite (left) and Australian transplant Roshan Karunaratne (right) are living the high life in a new skyscraper at 196 Willoughby St. in Brooklyn.
Stefano Giovannini

New office towers, from the 495-foot-tall 1 Willoughby Square, developed by JEMB Realty Corporation, to the 360-foot-tall 141 Willoughby, by Savanna Partners, are in the works.

And there’s also a plan over the next decade commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to make the neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly with a master plan designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and WXY Architecture + Urban Design. Downtown Brooklyn is also one of the city’s most connected neighborhoods with 13 subway lines and 11 commuter trains via the LIRR at Atlantic Center.

“Downtown Brooklyn has become an extension of Lower Manhattan.”

Matthew Villetto, executive vice president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing

That’s attracting newcomers like Roshan Karunaratne, 32, a health care director who moved from Sydney, Australia, to a one-bedroom apartment at the new Willoughby at 196 Willoughby St. with his 27-year-old girlfriend Dainora Jonusaite.

With his new office in the Financial District, only two stops by subway, Karunaratne found the location to be “a massive plus” and more desirable than parts of Manhattan where he initially searched, which felt “claustrophobic.”

“I like the area between Fort Greene Park and Downtown Brooklyn,” said Karunaratne. “There’s a lot of cool restaurants, bars and coffee shops you can easily walk to.”

The 34-story building, with 476 apartments, was designed by Perkins Eastman and developed by RXR Realty. Prices start at $2,870 for studios, $3,840 for one-bedrooms, and $5,660 for two-bedrooms.

“Downtown Brooklyn has become an extension of Lower Manhattan,” said Matthew Villetto, executive vice president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, which handles the Willoughby.

Here’s a look at some of the new towers gunning for supremacy in Downtown Brooklyn.

Exterior shot of Brooklyn Tower.
Sky’s the limit: Brooklyn Tower rises a whopping 1,066 feet into the heavens.
Michael Toolan

The most impressive new structure to pierce the Downtown Brooklyn skyline is the Brooklyn Tower at 9 DeKalb Ave., which topped out in October. Soaring 1,066 feet above the borough at 93 stories, it dwarfs surrounding high rises, standing almost 350 feet taller than the next tallest building.

Developed and built by JDS Development Group and designed by SHoP Architects, the two firms are no strangers to sky high luxury engineering—they also collaborated to create 111 West 57, the critically acclaimed, 1,428-foot-tall sky palace on Billionaires’ Row at the foot of Central Park.

Whereas 111 W. 57th St. houses a mere 60 residences with an average price point around $28 million, the Brooklyn Tower will offer a more diversified inventory at a much larger scale. It will soon be home to about 550 residences, designed by Gachot Studios, 400 of which will be rentals with 30% designated as affordable housing.

“It’s not just a sculpture in the sky, it’s different.”

Michael Stern, founder and CEO of JDS

The 150 condos for sale begin above 500 feet (where most nearby penthouses cap out), so all will enjoy panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, New York Harbor, Prospect Park and Brooklyn through floor-to-ceiling windows
The property also boasts 100,000 square feet of amenities, including health and fitness spaces and elevated outdoor loggias designed by Woods Bagot with landscape design by HMWhite.

While pricing has not yet been released, sales are set to launch early this year with leases to follow and occupancy by late 2022 with Douglas Elliman as the exclusive agent.

“It’s not just a sculpture in the sky, it’s different,” said Michael Stern, founder and CEO of JDS. The staggering tower also incorporates the restoration of the landmarked Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn, which dates back to 1906, with its dramatic dome ceiling and classical architecture, providing both a lobby entrance to the residences and 100,000 square feet of ground floor retail.

Exterior shot of Roshan Karunaratne and girlfriend Dainora Jonusaite at the high rise apartment building the Willoughby.
The couple said that they love the walkability and vibrant dining scene in the skyscraped ’hood.
Stefano Giovannini

Clocking in at 68 stories and 720 feet tall, Brooklyn Point at 138 Willoughby St. was completed in July 2020.

Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, it still reigns supreme as home of the highest outdoor infinity pool in the Western Hemisphere, which crowns its rooftop sundeck.

“I like the area between Fort Greene Park and Downtown Brooklyn. There’s a lot of cool restaurants, bars and coffee shops you can easily walk to.”

Roshan Karunaratne, a resident of Brooklyn Point

Developed by Extell Development Company — which graced 57th Street with its first supertall back in 2015 with One57, followed by the more recent Central Park Tower —Brooklyn Point is the first and only for-sale residence at City Point, attracting buyers with its 421a 25-year tax abatement status.

“We saw how mature the Brooklyn market had become for a project of this caliber,” said Ari Goldstein, senior vice president of development at Extell. “People want to buy in the neighborhood. They’re confident about appreciation.”

In fact, 2021 saw 255 condo sales in Downtown Brooklyn, up 106% from 2020 and up 18% from 2019, according to analysis by Serhant, which handles Brooklyn Point sales. Of those, 82% were for new developments. The median sales price has also been on an upward trajectory, reaching $1.39 million in 2021, up 26% from 2020 and 40% from 2019.

An interior of a Brooklyn Point unit.
That’s tall, folks! A unit inside 68-story Brooklyn Point on Willoughby Street.
Evan Joseph Studios

Brooklyn Point’s 483 luxury units are currently priced from $900,000 for a studio to $2.87 million for a three-bedroom.

In addition to its sky-high swimming pool, it’s also home to 40,000 square feet of enviable health and wellness amenities, including a 65-foot indoor saltwater lap pool, a 35-foot rock climbing wall, a squash/basketball court and a spa with sauna, steam rooms and hot tub.

Exterior of 11 Hoyt.
Raise the roof at 620-foot-high 11 Hoyt.
Rendering by Binyan Studios

Rising 57 stories and 620 feet high, 11 Hoyt is distinct for its 27,000-square-foot elevated private park landscaped by Hollander Design, which rings the property atop a two-story base with shade trees, native flowers and lawns for lounging.

Developed by Tishman Speyer and designed by Studio Gang Architects, they drew inspiration from the classic bay windows of Brooklyn’s nearby iconic brownstones for a modern scalloped façade made of cast concrete and glass that sweeps diagonally across the building for a rippling effect.

With 55,000 square feet of amenities, including a health and wellness center with a 75-foot saltwater pool, squash court, yoga studio and spa, there’s also a 32nd-floor Sky Club with a private dining room and entertainment spaces, as well as 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Opened in late 2020, 11 Hoyt’s 481 apartments range from studios to four-bedrooms with interiors by Michaelis Boyd Associates. Current listings, exclusively handled by Corcoran, range from $795,000 for a studio to $4.3 million for a four-bedroom.

Exterior of Alloy Block.
Ambitious (and WIP) Alloy is the new kid on the block — and will be an actual full block of development when complete.
Alloy Development

The Alloy Block broke ground last summer as one of the most ambitious new projects shaping Downtown Brooklyn. Bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Schermerhorn Street, 3rd Avenue and State Street, the first phase, which is slated for completion in 2024, will include the city’s first all-electric residential tower at 505 State St. and two public schools designed to meet Passive House compliance for energy efficiency.

“There’s a public health crisis, job market volatility, logistics challenges, inequality, a sustainability crisis — it’s all part of the daily discussion in Brooklyn.”

Jared Della Valle, CEO and founder of Alloy Development

Rising 44 stories and 480 feet, the residential tower will be home to 441 mixed-income units with rents starting as low as $750.

(In its second phase, a second residential tower will climb nearly double that height to 840 feet.)

When it’s complete, the Alloy Block will consist of 850 new residences, including approximately 200 affordable apartments, 200,000 square feet of Class A office space and 40,000 square feet of retail.

“Our impact can be provocative,” said Della Valle. “It’s such an interesting time. There’s a public health crisis, job market volatility, logistics challenges, inequality, a sustainability crisis — it’s all part of the daily discussion in Brooklyn.”