Deals Secure Brooklyn Bridge Park Future

By Genevieve Belmaker, Epoch Times
September 8, 2013 10:47 pm Last Updated: September 9, 2013 10:22 pm

NEW YORK—The 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park just closed a major development deal that will transform historic buildings on the waterfront into spaces for shopping, dining, arts, and entertainment.

The deal, made with Midtown Equities and its partners, was announced Sept. 4 and involves repurposing historic Civil War-era structures built between 1869 and 1885. Some of the buildings, situated on a 1.3-mile stretch of Brooklyn’s East River shoreline from Jay Street to Atlantic Avenue, have been abandoned since the 1960s.

The deal involves over $60 million in funding to maintain the park as usable space for the community long into the future. An earlier deal with the park involves over $100 million for the same purpose.

The development will make the park a destination and allow residents greater access to the waterfront.

One of the projects includes the conversion of what’s known as the historic Tobacco Warehouse into a theater. The warehouse, located at 26 New Dock St. and Water Street, is adjacent to Empire Stores and currently is just a façade without a roof.

Construction is planned to begin sometime in the fall 2013. St. Ann’s, the performing arts group taking over the space, hopes to begin presenting there in the fall of 2015.

The St. Ann’s Warehouse design by Marvel Architects PLLC will create an 18,000 square feet of roofed building with a flexible performance space in the historic Tobacco Warehouse site. The plan also includes a 1,000 square-foot multiuse space for artists and other community groups.

The other buildings that will be reclaimed and repurposed, known as the Empire Stores, are a series of seven contiguous four- and five-story historic warehouses.

The seven historic warehouses that make up the Empire Stores will develop new space on the roof, for a total of 380,000 square feet.

Construction at the site is expected to begin in early 2014 and Midtown Equities plans to have it open by mid-2015.

The Empire Stores are expected to generate about $60 million during the life of the 96-year ground lease, which will be used to help fund maintenance and operations of the park.

Both sites are located at the outskirts of the DUMBO historic district, with its distinctive cobblestone streets, low-rise buildings, and post-industrial atmosphere. They are directly behind the well-known Jane’s Carousel, just to the east of Brooklyn Bridge, and are visible across the river from Lower Manhattan.

A second deal involving a luxury hotel and residential building at the northernmost tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park was announced in June. That site is expected to generate healthy revenue for the park of $119.7 million over the course of two 97-year ground leases, which will go toward funding maintenance and operations of sections of the park that are already built or under construction.

Rent and payments at the John Street development, which will be paid in lieu of taxes from residential unit owners and the hotel operator, are expected to be about $3.3 million a year. The money will go toward park maintenance.

“These plans represent yet another critical step toward securing the long-term financial stability of Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation Chairman Robert K. Steel in a statement released by the park.

“This investment will ensure additional office, retail and cultural space that will strengthen this public-private partnership while adding additional park amenities that will promote healthy economic development in Dumbo, an already burgeoning arts and technology hub.”

The Brooklyn-based real estate development group HK Organization, and the real estate investment firm Rockwood Capital, with offices in White Plains, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, are also involved in the deal.