Gritty and offbeat as its reputation is, the Gowanus Canal may, in a few years, start becoming more bourgeois.
The City Planning Commission on Monday gave its approval for the construction of a 700-rental apartment complex on the largely industrial canal; it is to be built by one of the nation’s largest developers, the Lightstone Group. The project had been opposed by many residents who feared it would overwhelm schools and subways and accelerate the transformation of a neighborhood still sprinkled with artists into another high-rent neighborhood, like Dumbo or SoHo.
But many groups supported the project, not just because it would spruce up a derelict part of the neighborhood but also because it would create a new constituency for cleaning up the famously turgid waters of the canal, which is 1.8 miles long.
Construction is to begin this year, said Ethan Geto, a spokesman for Lightstone.
The complex is to consist of two buildings of graduated heights, 12 stories in some spots along the canal, but shorter inland, toward the low-rise neighborhood of factories and row houses. Most of the apartments are to be sold at market prices, but 140, or 20 percent of them, are to be reserved throughout the buildings for people of modest incomes. A family of four with an income under $49,800, for example, would be eligible.
The project is to include a 530-foot esplanade along the canal for public use; a provision of the latest plan for the project would increase the square footage of the walkway by almost 3,000 square feet.
Because Hurricane Sandy flooded the surrounding streets, the revised plans call for the lowest occupied floors to be raised two feet above the 100-year flood plain as defined in a recently updated map by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mechanical and electrical systems are to be placed above that level as well.
The process was relatively painless for Lightstone because in 2009 a previous developer, Toll Brothers, won a zoning amendment permitting residential construction in a neighborhood zoned for manufacturing. The company had proposed some changes to those plans but abandoned them to avoid community objections and litigation.
In a statement, David Lichtenstein, chairman and chief executive of the Lightstone Group, said the new complex would “further enliven this vibrant neighborhood.”
“We view this development as an enormous opportunity to transform a neglected waterfront resource into a lively component of a thriving residential community with an abundant cultural and recreational life.”