Different building, same buyer for Witnesses

Sugar Hill Capital Partners snaps up a small 168-year-old residential building from the Jehovah's Witnesses for $3 million, shortly after buying a larger one from them for $7.1 million.

Crain's, New York/March 16, 2012

The latest of the eight Brooklyn Heights properties put up for sale by the Jehovah's Witnesses sold this week for roughly $3 million, 13% shy of its asking price. The buyer, Sugar Hill Capital Partners, had scooped up another Witness property nearby earlier this year.

The sale of the five-story townhouse at 161 Columbia Heights to Sugar Hill closed this week. The 7,513-square-foot property has seven market-rate apartments, one rent-stabilized unit and two that are rent-controlled. Earlier this year, Manhattan-based Sugar Hill acquired 50 Orange St., a 20-unit, five-story elevator building, from the Witnesses, paying $7.1 million.

The company seeks to invest in residential buildings in which it can add value to the property and the property's tenants, according to a Sugar Hill spokeswoman. "The buildings [we acquire] are characterized by sound cash flows and the potential to grow in value over the long term," she added.

Bob Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, the brokerage retained to market 161 Columbia as well as 50 Orange St. and 183 Columbia Heights, confirmed the sale and referred comment to the Witnesses. A sales contract is also out for 183 Columbia Heights. A spokesman for the Witnesses could not be reached immediately for comment.

The Witnesses have owned 168-year-old 161 Columbia Heights since 1988, according to public records. Last year the Witnesses, which is thinking about moving its headquarters upstate, decided to sell the property along with seven others in the area, ranging from a carriage house to a seven-story apartment building.

The Witnesses have called Brooklyn home since 1909, and has become the largest landlord in the Brooklyn Heights area. The group has accumulated 34 properties totaling 3.2 million square feet there over the course of decades, creating a self-sustaining community there.

Sugar Hill is an investment and asset management firm focused on acquiring, repositioning and operating Manhattan and Brooklyn multi-family properties. It also manages its properties.

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