The Lightstone Group‘s plan to develop 700 apartments on a former Toll Brothers site overlooking the Gowanus Canal could turn the once-blighted neighborhood into the next Carroll Gardens — or at least nudge it in that direction.

The proposed rental buildings, reaching up to 12 stories, will transform the low-slung mix of factories and row houses along the 1.8-mile-long canal that was designated a Superfund site in 2010. The canal cleanup, including dredging the toxic bottom and capping it with clay, sand and rocks, could take a decade, but that hasn’t dissuaded the Lightstone Group. Instead, the developer is touting the pungent canal as a feature.

“People are always attracted to waterfront locations, and this will be a spectacular project,” Kasra Sanandaji, Lightstone’s senior vice president for investments, told the New York Times, adding that the “up-and-coming Gowanus neighborhood” has “one of Brooklyn’s most vibrant artistic communities and cultural scenes.”

The original Toll Brothers plan called for a complex of 447 larger apartments, most of them luxury condos. The Lightstone Group’s proposal has smaller rental units, 140 of which will be affordable housing. The developer has promised to build a public 530-foot-long esplanade, steel bankside bulkheads to keep toxic elements from passing from the soil to the canal water, storm-water systems to minimize runoff and a boathouse for a local canoe group, the Gowanus Dredgers .

Jerome Krase, professor emeritus of sociology at Brooklyn College and a former president of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation called the development “the tipping point” for Gowanus. “What’s going to be interesting is to see whether it’s going to contribute to a kind of middle- and upper-middle-income neighborhood in between gentrified Carroll Gardens and highly gentrified Park Slope,” Krase told the New York Times. “What’s unusual about this project is it’s being done in the middle of the wasteland.”

The middle of the Waste Land, you say? Substitute “nymphs” for “artists, woodworkers and quirky neighbors” below:

The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.

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