Jehovah’s Witnesses jettison one more property in historic Brooklyn

New York Business Journal/November 8, 2017

By Anthony Noto

Jehovah’s Witnesses wrapped up the sale of a property in one of Brooklyn's most historic neighborhoods.

The property, 74 Adams Street, is considered one of the last remaining development sites in the Dumbo area with frontage on Front Street, York Street and Fleet Alley.

On the buy side is Jeffrey Gershon of Hope Street Capital, a developer with properties across New York City.

The transaction ends decades of ownership for the Witnesses, who bought the site back in 1975. The property served as a vehicle repair garage starting in 1976 and doubled in size in 1990.

The current site is 24,072 square feet (2,236 sq m) and offers 144,913 square feet (13,462 sq m) in development rights. The property is zoned for mixed-use development, which includes parking, residential, retail and commercial use.

According to the Real Deal, the property closed at $60 million.

Jehovah's Witnesses have had a presence in Brooklyn for more than a century, but over the past few years, the religious group has been hustling to jettison all of its assets as a way to afford property in Warwick, New York.

The most notable deal involved the Kushner Cos. — the Manhattan real estate development firm previously led by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump. CIM Group, also based in Manhattan, and Brooklyn-based developer LIVWRK, teamed with Kushner to acquire the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower site in Brooklyn Heights.

The deal for that property, valued at $340 million, was finalized last year, making it one of the largest real estate transactions ever closed in the borough of Brooklyn. The 733,000-square-foot series of buildings, at 25-30-50 Columbia Heights, and 58 Columbia Heights and 55 Furman St., are set on 2.3 acres near the Brooklyn Bridge and are known for the red-letter “Watchtower” sign looming atop one of the buildings.

Kushner at the time described the partnership's plans in a press statement this way: "Over the next year, we'll begin transforming the property into one of the marquee urban office campuses anywhere in the country, let alone New York City."

Back In 2013, Kushner and LIVWRK paid $345 million for five buildings owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and have since spent more than $100 million doing a gut renovation to turn the buildings (175 Pearl St., 77 Sands St., 117 Adams St., 81 Prospect St. and 55 Prospect St.) into a 1 million-square-foot office campus known as Dumbo Heights.

Among the companies setting up shop inside the complex are Etsy, which moved its headquarters to 117 Adams St. earlier this summer, and WeWork, which is inside the space at 81 Prospect St.

Brooklyn Eagle pointed out that 74 Adams St. is located outside the boundaries of Dumbo (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

When the property was still included on the Watchtower's marketing website, the listing described it as a 144,913-square-foot development site where luxury residential construction is allowed as-of-right. A new building constructed there could also have commercial and retail space and a community facility.

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