Willoughby Plaza, Already a Hit, Gets a Capital Upgrade

A diagram of the permanent Willoughby Street plaza. Click here for a larger image with legible text. Image: DDC

Downtown Brooklyn’s Willoughby Street plaza, located just off Adams Street, was the forerunner of New York City’s current efforts to reclaim roadways as pedestrian spaces. Built in 2006, before Janette Sadik-Khan took over the city Department of Transportation, the city used now-familiar ingredients — concrete planters and folding chairs — to close the block to auto traffic and open up space for people to walk and sit.

Six years later, the plaza is a construction site, as the city transforms it from an overnight experiment to a permanent part of Downtown Brooklyn. New street trees and planting beds will supersede the movable planters and uniform sidewalk-style paving will replace the asphalt of the former roadbed.

The neighbors can’t wait.

“The new pedestrian plaza that they’re putting in is going to be fantastic,” said Jeff Kay, COO of Muss Development. “We’re really excited about it.”

Muss Development bought the bottom two floors of 345 Adams Street, a superblock-sized city office building that fronts the Willoughby plaza, in 2007, with the intention of turning the space from offices into retail. Kay said the plaza has been a boon to restaurants signing new leases in the building. “It’s a great complement, the fact that people can eat there and bring stuff out of the restaurant,” he said.

A new Panera Bread is set to open shortly on the ground floor of 345 Adams, according to Brownstoner. A Muss media release says Candy shop Sugar and Plumm and restaurant American BBQ and Beer Company are scheduled to open this fall. A Shake Shack just opened on the other side of the plaza.

Not coincidentally, Muss is also building a new entrance to 345 Adams that will front the plaza.

The lack of vehicular access on Willoughby doesn’t bother Kay. “We’ve had absolutely no problems,” he said. Neither shoppers, workers, nor deliveries have had trouble reaching the building, said Kay, noting that they can use Fulton or Adams Streets. “It wasn’t a particularly traveled street in any event. It’s just a perfect use of that street.”

Photo: Aaron Naparstek