The city’s literary community likely sighed at the the news that Brooklyn’s beloved bookstore, BookCourt, would cease operations in 2016. The store owners, Henry Zook and Mary Gannett, ran the shop for 35 years and grew it into a literary hub that hosted events for both renowned and beginning writers. Now, longing for retirement, the divorced couple announced the shop’s closing last month and sold the store’s two walk-up buildings for $13.6 million to developers Eli Hamway and Michael Shamah of Eastern Capital Group. According to the Real Deal, the developers are planning a mixed-use development with both boutique-residentials and retail space.
Less than a week after news broke, building permits were filed with the Department of Building to vertically and horizontally expand the two prewar walk-ups. The architect on record is burgeoning Brooklyn designer, Charles Mallea, who has been involved in several glossy residential developments in Brooklyn such as 555 Graham Avenue and 28 Starr Street. Eastern Capital also has a condominium project in the works in Williamsburg at 138 North 10th Street.
As detailed by the plans, the humble three-story building at 163 Court Street will grow by 4,800 square feet and receive a two-story, 25-foot addition; inside will be 6 units with retail at the ground floor. The larger building at 161 Court, which the bookstore grew into in the mid-1990’s, will be enlarged horizontally by roughly 2,000 feet and will continue to hold 3 apartments.
As a silver lining for the many fans of Bookcourt, a new bookstore inspired by the shop may be opening in a nearby Brooklyn brownstone by author Emma Straub. Straub told the New York Times: “We decided that we couldn’t stomach living in a neighborhood with no independent bookstore.” Straub and her husband are in the process of opening their own bookstore close to BookCourt’s old location.
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