Neighborhood News: The Gowanus Arts Building’s Rooftop Farm

A community hub for the last three decades, The Gowanus Arts Building at 295 Douglass Street between Third and Fourth avenues is getting a big, beautiful makeover that will see its third-floor theater moved to the ground floor and a garden pop up on its roof. The renovation is being executed by the Civic Architecture Workshop. Contractors aim to start work June 1 on a $1.5 million remodeling, and the project is expected to take around six months. Some artists who rent space in the building will be displaced during the renovation, but will be welcome to return upon the work’s completion.

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Image courtesy Civic Architecture Workshop

Currently, the third-story theater is not ADA compliant because it is accessible only by stairs. The theater’s move to the ground floor will remedy that, and it will allow for the theater to expand and offer retractable seating. The theater then can be configured for a variety of uses and performances. Windows will be enlarged on the ground floor as well, allowing pedestrians a chance to see the theater and the adjacent art gallery, which will also be shifted to that level from an upper floor.

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Image courtesy Civic Architecture Workshop

The new rooftop farm will be designed by Brooklyn Grange. It will be built in part with money granted from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. Vegetables will grow on the “Gowanus Sky Farm” — as it’s been dubbed — and the area will also host educational programs for students.

According to a press release, architect Severn Clay-Youman of Civic Architecture Workshop said, “The owners of the Gowanus Arts Building hope to create a local community center which champions community, sustainability, diversity and health through art.”

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Image courtesy Civic Architecture Workshop

Youman-Clay, who worked in theatrical design before becoming an architect, says, “The interesting thing to watch has been how the arts organizations in the neighborhood are very much supported by their educational activities now. … This little area – with Spoke the Hub, Brooklyn Boulders, the Brooklyn Music Factory – has become sort of a nexus of the Park Slope child-industrial complex. It’s an interesting turn for the arts down here toward education and community outreach.”