Susan Doban Architect, PC, has created a contemporary loft office space for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s new home in a historic building at 25 Elm Place on the corner of Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn.
As the Brooklyn Chamber’s architect for the project, Susan Doban Architect, PC, developed 5,000 square feet of raw space into offices and a conference room on the second floor of a building that originally housed Frederick Loeser & Co., a Brooklyn department store that thrived on the block bordered by Elm Place, Fulton, Bond, and Livingston Streets from the late 19th Century until it was sold in 1950. The current owner of the building is JW Mays, Inc., and the architect of record is Pinner Associates.
“In working with any historic building, a decision has to be made about which historic elements to preserve and how best to articulate the new elements,” said Susan G. Doban, principal of Susan Doban Architect, PC. “In this case, the historic high arched windows and high ceilings give the space character and an open feel, and everyone agreed from the moment we first saw the space that these were important to maintain, and even accentuate.”
Ms. Doban continued that many of the new walls were kept intentionally low and distinct from the historic elements, so as to respect and highlight the historic features, while creating a layout to suit the needs of the Chamber.
“The high wall which defines the entrance is slightly skewed to draw the visitor’s eye toward those wonderful old windows and lead the eye beyond toward the heart of the Chamber activities,” Ms. Doban said. “Walls that are used to define private offices or separate major departments within the Chamber have high windows, which echo the historic windows but are articulated in a simple, modern way.”
Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber moved from the Verizon building nearby to 25 Elm Place because it needed additional space to accommodate its expanding programs including the new Business Solutions Center, which the Brooklyn Chamber has launched on behalf of the Department of Small Business Services.
“We spent a lot of time looking all over downtown Brooklyn,” Mr. Adams said. “When we saw this raw space, it was a real loft with high ceilings and I fell in love with it. We quickly brought Susan in and Susan had a vision of what she wanted, which we were very supportive of. We are fortunate to have a brilliant design by one of the borough’s most compelling contemporary architects.”
Mr. Adams marveled at the Chamber’s good fortune to find contemporary loft space in downtown Brooklyn similar to the lofts found in Brooklyn in DUMBO or in Manhattan in the Flatiron District. The building’s elegant past is apparent from the cast iron, gilded columns that were prominent when the space was a department store selling floor. The paint was stripped off and the columns varnished and preserved as part of the renovation.
The Brooklyn Chamber has long been supportive of development on Livingston Street and in the late 1990s at the behest of former Borough President Howard Golden it created the Livingston Street Corridor Plan, which has since been incorporated into the broader Downtown Brooklyn Plan. Recently, Livingston Street has experienced new development at 180 Livingston Street and the Brooklyn Tabernacle across the street.
“We found the most appropriate space, the right space to meet our business needs, a supportive landlord, and a good deal,” Mr. Adams said. “It’s fitting that we will play a role in the ongoing development of the area.”
In other recent projects, Susan Doban Architect, PC, has transformed an abandoned retail space into a classroom and administrative building for Monroe College’s Main Street campus in New Rochelle. In addition, construction recently began on an adjacent, 200-student dormitory, which the firm also designed, and which will be a key element in the redevelopment of the growing downtown business district. Ms. Doban’s firm is currently working on streetscape improvements for another vital area of Brooklyn, the Sheepshead Bay Esplanade at Emmons Avenue, as well as several residential and industrial projects in Brownstone Brooklyn.
Ms. Doban is a vice chair of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, chairperson of the Chamber’s Small Business Seminar Committee, and has served as a judge for the Build Brooklyn Awards for the last three years. She has served on the Board of Managers of the Prospect Park YMCA, as a volunteer garden guide at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and on a special committee of the Real Estate Board of New York and the Port Authority to address building code revisions to improve safety after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. She resides in Park Slope with her husband and two daughters.