For 120 years, the Domino Sugar Refinery was a workspace for thousands along the East River. It’s been vacant for almost 20 years now, but that’s about to change.

“This building has this kind of hold on New Yorkers' hearts,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder and creative director of Practice For Architecture and Urbanism, or PAU, the architect who designed The Refinery at Domino.

What You Need To Know

  • The Refinery at Domino is a landmark building on the 11-acre Domino sugar factory site 

  • The former refinery from the 1880s has been transformed into a 15-story, 460,000-square-foot office space 

  • The Refinery at Domino is one of five mixed-use buildings on the site in Williamsburg along the East River

  • The project has been in the works for more than 10 years

The new version of the landmark building is the centerpiece at the 11-acre Domino Sugar Factory site. The 1880s structure has been transformed into a 15-story, 460,000-square-foot office space by developers Two Trees Management.

Chakrabarti said the design pays homage to the building’s history. The developers built a building within a building, installing a brand-new glass structure into the existing brick facade, with a 12-foot gap between the new and old structures.

“There’s just these layers. You are in here, you see the inside of the historic brick wall. There’s greenery. It will snow and rain between the gap of the old and new building,” Chakrabarti said.

"You get these unbelievably unique vignettes of the city," he added. "And so all of these moves we made culminated in this thing that I think takes our history as a city and moves it forward into the future."

There are nods to the past, like the famous Domino sign that was a beacon along the East River for decades. Visitors can also walk through at ground level and see the more-than-200-foot-tall chimney.

Since taking over the site in 2012, Two Trees has built up the waterfront area with popular green spaces and mixed-use buildings. This site will feature five buildings with around 2,700 units of housing - 700 of them affordable - plus retail and 600,000 square feet of office space.

Two Trees is confident it can fill the space despite the current environment.

“We conceived of this 10 years ago. It was a very different market, office market back then, but we believe in the mixed-use philosophy at Two Trees and we believe in the demand to work in this site in one of the great neighborhoods in the city,” said Dave Lombino, managing director of Two Trees Management.

Lombino said there is an entire workforce in Brooklyn that would prefer to work in the borough as opposed to Midtown or lower Manhattan. He called it a unique place where people will want to work.