The Bossert Finds a Buyer

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When The Watchtower Group announced that it was selling one of its marquee Brooklyn Heights properties, The Bossert Hotel at 98 Montague Street, back in January, the big question quickly became whether they’d clear the $100 million mark. Well, from what we’re hearing, they have: According to a tipster who tends to know these things, Robert A. Levine, the same developer behind One Brooklyn Bridge Park (a Brownstoner advertiser), has locked up the deal for “north of $100 million.” Given that the 224-unit building has 200,000 square feet of space that could easily fetch $1,000 a foot post-renovation, it doesn’t seem like such a crazy price to us. Reached through his publicist, Levine had “no comment” on the deal (as opposed to a denial) and the Watchtower broker did not return our phone message before posting time.
Update: We’re now hearing through another source that the price was $90 million and that RAL plans to turn it into student housing, at least in the near-to-medium term.
Watchtower Divestment Continues: The Bossert on the Block [Brownstoner] GMAP

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  • Wait…so people are still getting financing and buying 100 million dollar properties??!!

    You might want to explain this to the what.

  • I think this is going to hurt One Brooklyn Bridge sales. Now that we know it’s going to go condo, it’s the new premier condo development soon-to-be on the market. Hopefully, they’ll get a cool restaurant in there and rooftop grill like in the olden days

  • Hurt Brooklyn Bridge sales? Huh??

    If it was bought today, it will close in 3 months, it will take 6 months to get permits, then construction will take two years.

    You don’t think One Brooklyn Bridge will be sold out by 2011?

  • Consider this: If he’s buying each unit for $450,000 or $500,000, he could probably rent them out without doing any work and cover his costs.

  • 11:10 & 11:24 you do realise that none of this has been confirmed and Brownstoner is just repeating a rumour he “heard by the way”?

  • well, a lot of us in the business have heard it 11:36

  • itd — construction will take 9 months. move-in will be christmas 09

  • my hope is that the new owner/developer does not try to DUMBO-down the historic ground floor interiors including the front and rear lobbies.
    Those spaces call for gilding and crystal chandeliers, not neon and minimalist concrete.
    This really is Brooklyn’s Plaza Hotel.

  • 11:58, I agree. This is one incredible building and, unlike other buildings, the closer one gets to this one, the more impressive it is. I think seeing the well-dressed individuals enter/exit and mill out front of The Bossert (forgetting for a moment whatever thoughts one might have of the JWs) is like a throwback to another era.

  • Is this still going to be in the Brooklyn Heights House Tour this weekend?

  • Having toured the building when it was on sale, I can tell you that you absolutely can’t rent out these rooms as is and make any kind of serious return. The rooms are configured as dorm rooms. Tiny and most of them have no kitchen – maybe a sink and one of those dorm room refrigerators. The only thing you could do with it “as-is” is hotel or dorm rooms. Anything else requires a gut renovation.

  • tscola, I’m not sure as I have no association with the Brooklyn Heights House Tour or The Bossert, other than knowing one of the organizers. But try calling the number on this link, they should be able to anwer your questions.

    http://www.brooklynheightsassociation.org/housetour/housetour.htm

  • yes, I understand the first floor interiors will be on the BH house tour on saturday.

  • 12:47 is correct. i bid on this building (in the $85M range). The building has to be completely gutted above the first two floors to be useable. The rooms are tiny and do not have kitchens or proper bathrooms. Building can be very efficient if reconfigured. Views are great and the top floors can be converted to killer penthouses with 360 degree views and roof terraces facing the city. Also has a massive industrial catering kitchen in the basement.

  • This is solid-as-a-rock pre-war construction. It will be easy as pie to gut all existing partions and create new floorplans ala the Stanhope or the Plaza or the Gramercy Park Hotel. Why would you want to use any of the old SRO-era layouts?
    This has the potential for being a spectacularly successful development. It will create the most-sought-after housing in the Heights: three and four bedroom luxury apartments with concierge and doorman. Golden.

  • “my hope is that the new owner/developer does not try to DUMBO-down the historic ground floor interiors including the front and rear lobbies.
    Those spaces call for gilding and crystal chandeliers, not neon and minimalist concrete.
    This really is Brooklyn’s Plaza Hotel.”

    FWIW, I believe the Landmarks Commission reviews demolition plans for floors visible from the street. I think (but am not certain) they may have jurisdiction and can prevent removal of historic detailing. My hope is that the developer is smart enough to realize the detail is an asset to hold onto.

  • The Landmarks Commission has no jurisdicton whatsoever over the historic interiors. None. that is why I’m concerned.

  • It will be interesting to see where the transaction price ends up as the last asset the Watchtower disposed of was the Standish (169 Columbia Heights – 75,000 gross sf) at $50M or $670 psf. If you apply the same psf number to this property you get to $125M. I would be surprised if it went for that much. Not that it is comparable but I believe Levine acquired One Brooklyn for $250 psf.

    Brownstoner – Average end-user pricing will have to be way north of $1,000 psf to accommodate the major capital improvement dollar amount required to convert this bldg to condos, if that is what they intend to do.

    If it is converted to condos you can expect an above average common charge to fund the costly on-going maintenance program that will be required to keep all that decorative stone work stable.

    If the property trades for less than $670 psf the real looser here will be the new 169 Columbia Heights owner.

  • typo, loser not looser.

  • some interiors are landmarked. I think of Gage& Trollers. Not sure about this one.

  • Robert Levine hires architects more into trendy kitchen and bathroom decor than historic preservation. Some of the changes to the 360 Furman St facades would not have passed muster had it been in the landmark district.
    None of the grand rooms at the Bossert are protected although the exterior is.

  • Robert Levine knows what sells. He had a shell at 360 and made it into a modern condo development. This is a different project with different assets. I expect large family-sized condos with a historic flavor (cf, The Plaza)

  • STUDENT HOUSING????????????????????????????????

  • I agree that Levine knows what sells. I think the units at 360 Furman are really attractive. When the park is built and new ferries start operating to Wall Street, it will be one of the most pretigious addresses in the city, not just in brooklyn. The Bossert is different. It is an historic hotel. The sumptuos lobby and former dining and bar areas should be restored. I think that making it into a hotel/condo would be the best bet. hotel floors on the five or six lower levels, condos above with a stunning restaurant on part of the roof terrace. Done with class this could be stupendous.

  • 5:32 Levine knows what sells? How do you figure? 360 Furman – A former industrial bldg with window sills so high you can’t even see out the window when you are seated, so close to one of the country’s busiest highways you can see the mileage on the commuter’s odometer, so detached from public transportation you need a taxi to get to the subway??? I am pretty sure any knucklhead could fit out a bldg shell with residential finishes. Last I checked, didn’t look like it was selling. And why would any developer set out to build family-sized condos in a borough that is projected to have the medium age rise by 15 years over the next two decades?

  • speaking of marquee, the Bossert could use a nice new marquee, but it should look more like the one at the Plaza than at BAM.
    Valet parking will wisk your car away to….Atlantic yards!

  • student housing? I so doubt it.
    perhaps he is floating this canard as a way of reducing psychological competition with his Furman Street project. Of course this location has it all over Furman Street.

  • The building’s c of o is for “community facility” use. from what i understand, that would work for student housing. changing use on the c of o might require some type of public review (calling all heights NIBMY’s). the building also has a very quirky layout that will make it very hard to convert to condos as well as a lot of other challenges – no central heating / cooling, lots of “units” with no kitchens, no sprinkler, and a lot of subgrade space that will be difficult to put to economic use. good luck RAL. $90mm is not a bad price, but it will be a while before anything other than student happens here.

    – someone who underwrote the purchase of this building

  • 7:52, well that’s depressing.
    I guess this is still Brooklyn.
    Dogpatch to Manhattan’s Emerald City.
    Student housing in our Waldorf Astoria?
    That is pretty embarassing.

  • I have to believe Levine is stretched thin at 360 Furman. Way behind in sales effort and the park “usable” date getting pushed back every few months. I can’t believe he came up with the cash to do this deal. While $90M or $500 psf is a good deal, relative to other assets of this size, appeal, condition and location, I don’t see any short-term upside and even if he locked up some type of triple net lease deal with a university there must be debt service and/or prefered equity due in the near term. While there is a significant amount of capital out there ready to be put to use in real estate investment cap rates are going to be moving up on most property types. Investors will soon have better alternatives than sitting on a white elephant in a neighborhood that has a diminishing need for it. Anyone know what the housing cost might be for the student in this location?

  • Stretched thin?
    I should be so thin.
    1 BBP will be a big success.
    what are you talking about?
    it is DUMBO in Brooklyn Heights.
    The views are world-class. Looking out on to the Statue of Liberty is like looking out on to the Eiffel Tower or London Bridge. Are you daft?

  • 360 Furman is not “in” anything. It is a wart on Brooklyn Heights ass.

  • “360 Furman is not “in” anything. It is a wart on Brooklyn Heights ass”

    -Do I detect a bitter Willowtown resident who is still bitter about the collapse of the Soviet Union?

  • Don’t laugh at the student housing idea. The Bossert was used as a dorm for years before the Witnesses got it. I have friends who lived there in the 70′s when they went to Brooklyn Poly, which will soon be part of NYU. NYU is coming to Brooklyn Heights in a big way as soon as they have an engineering school in Brooklyn. John Sexton was a prof. at St. Francis College so he knows the ‘hood. Here comes NYU!

  • “Here comes NYU”
    That’s ridiculous. Nothing is the same as it was in the 1970′s. Try buying a brownstone for $24,000!

  • Thanks 11:08. We could also tell the new buyers of the penthouse in the Clocktower that they could have lived there too for FREE in the ’70s.

    Student housing in the Bossert?? Why not turn River Cafe into a soup kitchen?

  • 10:56 here:

    Given the cost of finding property and constructing college residence halls, the idea is not so unlikely. ALL of the downtown Brooklyn schools are screaming for dorm space. St. Francis has precious little, Polytechnic’s 400 bed dorm is full, Brooklyn Law is full, City Tech is planning to build dorms but it’s plans are several years away (since the “demise” of Ratner’s Mr Brooklyn). The St. George is doing brisk business as a college residence.

    And if not the Brooklyn schools, Pace University wanted a dorm in lower Manhattan and had to delay their plans.

    The financial upside on college housing is surprising good: A BED in a dorm in NYC can go for $7,000 for 10 months. Add summer rental to that and it’s a nice chunk of change for a population that doesn’t demand granite countertops and bamboo flooring. Given that college kids will live two to a room, it could make the developer sense.

    Look at the prices they are getting now at the NYU dorm on Livingston St.

    http://media.www.nyunews.com/media/storage/paper869/news/2007/09/05/News/Grad-Dorm.Opens.In.Brooklyn-2950896.shtml

  • When are people going to start moving into BBP? What’s the status for occupancy?

  • 360 Furman/One BBP is a mess. Haven’t budged”40% sold” in a year. Maybe condos in parks ain’t such a good idea after all. Perhaps it’s time to scrap the foolishness on the piers and build a real park. That way the kids who will live in the Bossert may actually have a place to recreate (jogging past all the current residents of the Heights in their walkers).

  • I really think that the lobby will be used as a definite selling point for any buyer of future condos in this building–it really is gorgeous, and the Witnesses have maintained it to highest standards. As for the rooms, they were mainly used as dorm-style housing for the married couple “Bethelites” who take a vow of poverty and work in the other buildings they own in Brooklyn. If they were used as dorms by the new owner, they are in excellent shape, but what a waste and not a likely idea for a building that could be redone and marketed as a very high-end property.