[Photo via Google Street View, September 2013.]
The gorgeous, totally decrepit shell of a 1907-built bank is in the process of becoming 50 apartments. A tipster noticed ongoing construction at the old Roosevelt Savings Bank, located on Gates Avenue near Broadway in Bed-Stuy. (It's just a few strides away from the border with Bushwick, on the other side of the Gates Avenue J/M stop.) Department of Buildings permits approved in July show that owner Aron Kapelyus of Kai Construction plans to adjust the existing, once-high-ceilinged one-story structure to fit four more floors inside, and then add a sixth floor on top of the building, raising its height from 50 to 70 feet. The floors will house 50 units with 34,937 square feet of residential space, as well as 25 parking spots. Recreation rooms and lounges will also be included, according to other DOB documents. (Meanwhile, a permit filing that has not been approved calls for a more ambitious project: a seven-story building with 86 apartments.) The site includes not only the old bank building but the existing parking lot behind it.
The bank isn't landmarked, but no demolition permits have been filed, so it's unclear how much the new project will incorporate the old.
Brownstoner's historian extraordinaire Montrose Morris penned a long history of the Beaux-Arts building, which was designed by Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell. Those are the same architects behind Prospect Park's Boat House and the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn Heights.
The Eastern District of Brooklyn, which today includes parts of Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, and a bit of Eastern Williamsburg, had a lot of money tied up in it, due to a very strong manufacturing district. Factories, breweries, and other industries had made businessmen in this area quite rich, and they wanted to bank locally. In 1895, a group of them applied for a state charter to start a bank called the Eastern District Savings Bank. .. A good bank needs an impressively good building, so the trustees and officers approached one of the best firms around to design their new bank. ... In 1920, the bank changed its name to honor Theodore Roosevelt, and became the Roosevelt Savings Bank.
Morris (not her real name) concludes with a personal anecdote about taking a home-repairs class there and learning the acoustic nuances of its rotunda: "Now THAT'S what a community bank should be."
From the modern-day photos, it's easy to see that the roof is mostly gone, letting light flood the interior. It was marketed as a redevelopment site for an indeterminate amount of time, until it was bought by an LLC for $1.9M in 2012. Here's a look at the bank back in its grand ol' heyday, courtesy of a postcard at the Museum of the City of New York.
Lastly some hard-to read zoning diagrams of what the new building on the site might look like. Again, we can't tell if the facade will be left intact or not.