On Untapped Cities, Julia Vitullo-Martin has posted some remarkable interior photos of the Domino Sugar refinery. And she talked with Two Trees developer Jed Walentas about some of the challenges he’ll face transforming the empty industrial site into his vision for a residential and office complex. One of the real challenges will be converting the main brick building. She writes: “For one thing, it has no real floors and no real internal structure, but is instead ‘just a weird labyrinthine of equipment, much of which is completely integrated with the structure of the building,’ says Walentas. Massively big equipment will have to be removed and new space constructed within the empty shell of the building.” See a picture of some of that equipment after the jump and lots more on the Untapped Cities site.
Buyers at 659 Bergen Street (or at least the people that have signed contracts and hope to be buyers) continue to be stalled in their efforts to close on their apartments and finally occupy their homes. Many of these deals were signed in 2011 and buyers have been waiting over a year to get in. A tipster tells us that the developer of the Prospect Heights project, Boaz Gilad, has been saying that they will get the Certificate of Occupancy soon for well over a year now but it has yet to happen. On January 11, the realtor marketing the units, Aguayo Huebener, sent signers an email indicating that the building had passed all inspections and that they should start scheduling their own inspections and prepare for closing. Unfortunately, it turns out, the building had one more inspection to go. A few weeks later the building failed its gas system inspection on nine separate points. The realtor then forwarded questions from the signers to Gilad and emailed them his responses (which the tipster provided to us). He complained that the inspector with the buildings department (which he calls the plumbing department) “decided he wants to check all the plumbing again, and ALTHOUGH it was approved, he didn’t like the hot water system. We have no power to stop him from failing us…” The building failed the inspection primarily due to the venting of hot water heaters.
Several frustrated buyers have reported to DOB that somebody (the tipster says Gilad himself) has actually moved into the building despite the lack of a C of O. Several complaints (here, here and here) have been filed with the DOB on this point and though inspectors have visited the building they have been unable to gain access and therefore no action has been taken. The gas inspector also noted in his report that he was unable to access the fifth floor, the unit that is allegedly being occupied. In addition to all of this, our tipster says a few signers have been allowed to backed out of their contracts–but not to flip them for current market values. Instead, the units have been getting relisted for quite a bit more than the original asking price and our tipster says some have gone back into contract. For example, our tipster tells us, and Street Easy appears to confirm, that Unit 2D went into contract when the asking price was $369,000 in 2011 and was in contract again in December when the asking price was $449,000. Our tipster says it went into contract for $460,000.
Gilad is out of town and could not be reached for comment, however a representative from the marketer’s firm did say that the developer very much wants to obtain the C of O and close on the sales, that he is trying hard to make that happen and that there is no advantage to not closing on the properties. See a picture of the top unit with the lights on after the jump.
Buyers in Limbo at Prospect Heights Building [Brownstoner] (more…)
Two Trees Management has a new vision for the former Domino Sugar Plant. While all of the previous plans have been purely residential, as has nearly all of the development in Williamsburg over the last decade, Two Trees now wants to include a significant office space component. The company is proposing space for up to 4,000 workers according to the The Wall Street Journal. This comes at a time when small businesses have been complaining about the lack of office space in the neighborhood. Jed Walentas, founder of Two Trees, is critical of the purely residential development that has dominated in Williamsburg and Long Island City. He told the Journal, “they don’t make great urban places, they don’t integrate into the neighborhoods. What we’re trying really, really hard to do here is to mix in enough commercial office space to give this neighborhood and this community a sense of that feeling of vitality.” Any change to the existing residential plan would require approval from City Council and city agencies. Councilman Stephen Levin is supportive of the idea.
The warehouse at 246 Ashland Place is finito, after the DOB approved demolition permits in November. Now that it’s gone, there’s space for two coming developments. A small part of the parcel will be dedicated to the visual arts plaza outside of the Theater for a New Audience, now under construction. But a majority of the site (now a parking lot) is for the North Tower I. This site will be developed by the Gotham Organization and DT Salazar Inc., who plan for 600 new residences, half of which will be affordable. This development will also include 20,000 square feet of cultural and related office space and 20,000 square feet of retail space. The city recently released an RFP for North Tower II, which will bound the southern end of the arts plaza. And then of course there’s the BAM South Site, across from Lafayette Avenue, where the Two Trees developers recently started up the land use review process. Click through to the jump for a very helpful map outlining how the city-owned property will be divvied up. One other note: Yesterday the Brooklyn Paper reported the city has yet to rule on Two Trees’ request for a zoning change to allow more housing at the site, which we covered in December.
At least seven of the construction companies that worked on Atlantic Yards are on New York City’s caution list, DNAinfo found in an analysis of public records. Two are banned from contracting with the City’s School Construction Authority. Private developers are not required to check the list before hiring. None of the firms landed on the list for work performed on Atlantic Yards. But four were already on the list while working there, the story said. Above, Barclays Center under construction in August.
Shady Firms Flagged by City Helped Build Barclays [DNAinfo]
Turns out that George Chappell flip at 271 Jefferson Avenue we wrote about Friday wasn’t an anomaly. This area of Bed Stuy is, architecturally speaking, one of the finest in the borough, with buildings by noted architects Montrose Morris, Amzi Hill, Chappell and others. Developers are snapping up elaborate (or formerly so) houses in the proposed Bedford Historic District for middling prices and turning them around for more than a million dollars, doubling their money — sometimes in only a month, leading us to wonder if they did any work. Take 221 Jefferson Avenue, for example (pictured above). We passed up covering this house earlier because the listing has no interior photos. But then we saw a post about it over at BK to the Fullest. Turns out a rehab company bought it last month for $500,000 and now it’s back on the market for $1.2 million. Don’t be so sure they won’t get their price. Brownstoner HOTD 106 Hancock Street was also flipped and is already in contract after only a month, as BK to the Fullest pointed out. (It was asking $1.1 million.) All this leaves us with several questions: Did these houses not qualify for mortgages, thus keeping the (all-cash) price low? Or do sellers not know what their houses are worth, perhaps because the market is moving so quickly? If so, how long can this go on before sellers raise prices and cut out the flippers? Does anyone have any insight?
Bed-Stuy Flip (Again): 221 Jefferson Avenue [BK to the Fullest]
George Chappell House Survives Flip, Sells for $1.2M [Brownstoner]
House of the Day: 106 Hancock Street [Brownstoner]
Photo by Christopher Bride, PropertyShark
Architect-turned-developer Alex Barrett is not your everyday developer: His firm buys historic buildings and renovates them to a high design aesthetic that appeals to buyers in neighborhoods such as Carroll Gardens. He grew up in Park Slope and moved to Carroll Gardens in 2004. “As a designer walking the neighborhood and seeing some of the small-scale development being done, I was thinking it could be done a little better,” he said at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Real Estate Roundtable Tuesday. (Click through for details on how he does it and more photos.) (more…)
After a delay because of legal issues, the retail development at the Empire Stores Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park is finally set to move forward. The park plans to request proposals from developers in the fall, said Brooklyn Bridge Park president Regina Myer at the Brooklyn Historical Society real estate lunch Tuesday. The Dumbo site is actually seven connected buildings totaling 330,000 square feet that once stored coffee.
Building of the Day: 53-83 Water Street [Brownstoner]
Legal Battle Over Tobacco Warehouse Continues [Brownstoner]
DOJ Weighs in on Tobacco Warehouse Feud [Brownstoner]
Two Lawsuits Over the Tobacco Warehouse [Brownstoner]
A few Brooklynian commenters noticed activity at the large empty lot at 504 Sterling Place between Classon and Washington avenues. It looks like a residential project is in the offing: the owners just filed with the DOB to change the previous new building plans, which call for a five-story, 38-unit residential building. Permits for this site go back to 2004, and we spotted some work at one point in 2007. According to public records, the deed for the land last transferred this May to an entity called Seaway Capital Corp. GMAP
Charles Bagli has an extensive piece in the New York Times about how the longstanding nonprofit Community Preservation Corporation has run into substantial money problems, and the article illuminates why the developer is now shopping around the Domino development site. Many of the organization’s money woes stem from its for-profit C.P.C. Resources arm, which was established in the ’90s to invest in projects that often involved elements of luxury housing. Here’s the long and short of it, in Bagli’s words: “At the time, Community Preservation defended the ventures, saying it needed to invest in condominiums and other relatively upscale developments in order to strengthen neighborhoods by creating mixed-income communities. But others pointed out that even if that had been the case, the group should not have allocated so much of its capital to such projects. At the peak of the real estate boom in 2007 and 2008, more than half of the $1.5 billion in loans originated by Community Preservation or its for-profit arm were for condos.” The article notes that C.P.C. Resources defaulted on its $125 million Domino loan last month. Meanwhile, here’s a quote from Councilman Brad Lander about how CPC needs to get back to its affordable, nonprofit roots: “C.P.C. was tempted into more speculative lending, which harmed the organization financially and left a big hole in the field of lending for multifamily housing. …Two-thirds of the city’s housing stock are rental units, and that’s why we need C.P.C. to return to its core mission.”
Seeking Real Estate Profits, Nonprofit Group Stumbled [NY Times]
Photo by scriptingnews
Today the Eagle has an update on the sequel to the enormously successful 14 Townhouses development on State Street: The second phase of the project will be called “9 Townhouses,” and prices will start at $3.5 million. The new homes, which will rise on a lot at the corner of Hoyt Street and are a separated from the first 14 by a few older brownstones, will all be around 4,000 square feet. Developers Hamlin Ventures and Time Equities are aiming for LEED Gold certification this time around. The rendering above, from Rogers Marvel Architects, is the first sketch of the project we’ve seen. Here’s what developer Abby Hamlin says about the design in a statement to the newspaper: The new phase “continues the rhythm established by the 14 Townhouses” and “The ‘9 Townhouses’ are the second phase of a purposeful architectural statement that is modern and of today and yet compatible with the historic neighborhood.”
Hamlin, Time Equities Break Ground on 9 New Townhomes [Eagle]
Work Starting on 14 Townhouses, Phase Two [Brownstoner] GMAP
14 Townhouses, the Sequel: Coming Soon to State Street? [Brownstoner]
Construction work’s begun at 29-35 Macdonough Street, between Tompkins and Marcy Avenue in Bed Stuy. DOB approved plans for a four-story, 25 unit building. The lot sold last September; back then developers announced it would be an affordable housing development. According to a sign on the construction fence, work should last through the end of the year.
Affordable Housing Coming to 29-35 MacDonough [Brownstoner] GMAP
Last week the LPC held a public hearing for plans to alter the Romanesque Revival beauty at 878 President Street in Park Slope. The owners intend to add a roof deck, carve out five side windows, and demolish an addition in the rear. From a tipster, here’s what happened at the hearing:
“At the hearing the architect’s proposal primarily addressed adding the roof deck and mechanical equipment, as well as demolishing a later addition in the rear… I got up to speak and addressed three points: concern about the visibility of the deck and mechanical equipment on the roof; the fact that the notice [of the hearing] said nothing about demolishing anything in the rear; and concern about damaging the maple tree not on the property but immediately adjacent to the planned window additions on the property line (even though I knew this last point really wasn’t within the purview of the Committee, I wanted it on the record). The architect responded that the rear demolition was on the notice (I really don’t remember this being the case, and neither do others who saw the posting). The Landmarks Commissioners commented that the window additions were within their new guidelines, and that the changes in the rear would return the building to its original appearance; there was a little concern about the visibility of the roof changes, but they agreed with the architect that they would only be visible to people walking by for a few seconds. I left while the commissioners were going around the table in discussion—they were all speaking very positively about the proposals, so I assume it passed unanimously, although I don’t know for sure.”
An LPC rep informed us that the application was indeed approved. This home was on sale for $3,139,000 earlier this year and sold at ask.
Lots of New Windows Planned for Slope House [Brownstoner] GMAP P*Shark
This week City Limits checks in on the unfortunate drama surrounding the Spencer Street Condos in Bed-Stuy. As will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been tracking the story since the early days of the Brooklyn real estate boom, there are no happy endings in sight. To refresh: In 2005, residents who’d bought their condos at 201 Spencer Street the year before from developer Mendel Brach (he of Finger Building
Residents are trying to negotiate with Brach to gain air rights from neighboring properties, a move that would bring the Spencer Street buildings into compliance, but Brach will only negotiate if residents let him off the hook for $10,900,000 in damages he owes them from a 2009 lawsuit. In the meantime, he’s chipping away at his debts a little bit at a time: $280 a month of Brach’s wages at his bakery job are garnished to pay condo owners. That comes out to a whopping $3.88 per unit. Despite having had a hand in creating the situation, the DOB isn’t being too sympathetic with residents now: they could allow special variance or rezoning to bring the buildings into compliance with zoning regulations, but haven’t for fear of sending the wrong message; nor has the state filed any criminal actions against Brach. “When you deal with these city agencies, I’m learning, logic goes out the friggin’ window,” said one of the unlucky condo owners. “They make the rules. They make no sense to anybody else and they can change the rules when they want.”
Saga of The Worthless Condo [City Limits Magazine]
Banned Devloper Pays Settlement from Bakery Wages [Curbed]
Subpoena for Fraudulent Spencer St Developer [Brownstoner]
A Big F-in Mess on Spencer Street [Brownstoner] GMAP
Lock Him Up and Throw Away the Key [Brownstoner]
The Bottom Line on Developer Abuses [Brownstoner]
Photo by Marc Fader.
B’klyn Housing Benefits From Stimulus Funding [Brooklyn Eagle] GMAP
Brach Hit with Subpoena at Spencer Street [Real Deal]
After developer Joe Sitt locked down Dreamland amusement park on Coney Island on August 21 because of over half a million dollars in owed rent, park operator Anthony Raffaelle swore he would find legal recourse to reopen it. (Dreamland, the roller rink, is still very much open!) The Brooklyn Paper reports that Raffaelle went to the state Supreme Court on August 28, asking for a court order forcing Sitt to unlock the gates, yet the judge did not make an immediate decision and instead put off the case until Friday, September 18. This means that, in all likelihood, the park will remain shuttered for the rest of the summer.
Coney’s Dreamland Will Be Closed [Brooklyn Paper]
Joe Sitt Is No Dream Operator [Brownstoner]
Will Dreamland Reopen? [Brownstoner]
Ratner Moving West [NY Post]
Photo by Tracy Collins