Retail pro Chase Welles is a man with a mission. The executive vice president of SCG Retail represents some of the biggest tenants—Whole Foods, Kohl’s, LA Fitness—and is always looking for new locations for them. He and David Firestein owned Northwest Atlantic until a couple of years ago when the company merged with the Atlanta-based Shopping Center Group. Today, the duo owns 90 percent of what became SCG Retail, the Shopping Center Group’s New York division. On the week of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon in Las Vegas, Commercial Observer sat down with Mr. Welles in his Columbus Circle office to chat about his Williamsburg Whole Foods deal, Tinder and boating.
On the Market
South Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods have long fostered considerable charm and affluence despite being overshadowed by the explosion of “brownstone Brooklyn,” Williamsburg and Bushwick.
A few isolated incidents—take the 2011 Brighton Beach boardwalk shooting—and Superstorm Sandy didn’t help with image improvement, but recent developments point to South Brooklyn’s waterfront communities as the next Kings County neighborhoods to catch fire.
Year in Real Estate
A development site between Manhattan and Graham Avenues in Williamsburg is on the market for $6 million.
The property, located just east of Northside Williamsburg, across the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in a relatively underdeveloped nook of Williamsburg, could capitalize on the popularity of its more affluent neighbor.
William Bratton’s selection as police commissioner under Bill de Blasio will stand as perhaps the mayor-elect’s most prominent appointment. But as the clock ticks on Michael Bloomberg’s administration, two questions remain unanswered: Which projects begun under Mayor Bloomberg will unfold as planned? And who will shepherd Mr. de Blasio’s development goals?
In its final weeks in power, the Bloomberg administration is rushing to consolidate the mayor’s imposing real estate legacy. A New York Times article on Monday reported that $12 billion worth of projects were being pushed through for approval in the mayor’s twilight hours. They include grand projects like a massive Ferris wheel and outlet mall on Staten Island, America’s largest indoor ice rink in the Bronx and the Domino sugar factory redevelopment on the Brooklyn waterfront.
Two Trees meticulously crafted Brooklyn’s vibrant Dumbo neighborhood by personally selecting dozens of retailers and building scores of luxury apartments and more than 2 million square feet of office space—all without the help of national brands.
“We eschew the larger, national chains in favor of smaller, independent, neighborhood retail,” said Dave Lombino, director of special projects at the firm. Two Trees intends to implement the same independent-minded strategy at the SHoP Architects-designed, 11-acre Domino Sugar Factory site in Williamsburg by carefully selecting hip retail tenants and mixed-uses meant to bolster a vibrant, 24-hour community.
“Were building assets and willing to make decisions that sacrifice returns today in exchange for generating value over time,” he said. Below is a step-by-step guide to recreating the Dumbo aesthetic and philosophy, be it in Williamsburg or elsewhere.
Two Trees Management has pleased some affordable housing advocates and stoked concern among others with a plan to isolate almost one-third of the affordable apartment units at the Domino Sugar Factory project in one tower farthest from the East River.
While the method would hasten the construction of units for less affluent locals, the method could also lead to a perception of not-so-subtly segregated affordable housing that has haunted other recent, large-scale developments along the Williamsburg waterfront.
After securing a $45 million loan from Meridian Capital Group to finance the development of Williamsburg’s first Whole Foods, the healthful grocery Goliath is targeting a mid-2014 debut.
The 35,000-square-foot store at 240-242 Bedford Avenue is part of a 150,000-square-foot development that will take up a full block of North 4th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street. The project will also include a New York Sports Club and luxury rental apartments.
Eight years after a rezoning paved the way for the Williamsburg waterfront’s transformation into Miami Beach, residents and politicians in neighboring Greenpoint are speaking up about their own shoreline.
District councilman hopeful Stephen Pierson vowed that he will go to court to reduce the size of planned 40-story towers to 15 or 20 stories. And other opponents of the waterfront redefinition have released renderings of hulking high-rises that dwarf the Manhattan skyline across the river.
Six mixed-use buildings in or near Williamsburg’s fast-evolving southside sold for $27 million. An investment group led by Waterbridge Capital LLC acquired the properties–185 North 3rd Street, 170 South 1st Street, 72 Box Street, 626 Driggs Avenue, 280 Metropolitan Avenue and 290 Metropolitan Avenue–from 170 South First Street LLC.
Two Trees Grows In Brooklyn
Earlier this year a giant murky puddle at Brooklyn’s McCarren Park was being affectionately referred to as “Hipster Lake.”
Nearly half a year and $930,000 later, Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents must say goodbye to the oft-flooded section of the park between Bedford and Driggs avenues.
The park reopened yesterday, with newly carved pathways, drains designed to Read More
Food & Drink
The new Domino Sugar refinery will redefine the skyline of Williamsburg’s southside and potentially create 3,000 new jobs in the residential area, but its retail tenants will hew closely the neighborhood’s famed (and, at times, mocked) indie mindset, Two Trees Management Company Principal Jed Walentas told a crowd yesterday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Two Trees, which helped make Dumbo what it is today, will stress “small-scale independent” retail at the project. One slide in a Power Point presentation of the Domino site presented by Mr. Walentas had “No Big Box” spelled out in big letters. Two Trees is aiming for dynamic merchants that will increase the all-hours livelihood of the area. “If you build more Duane Reades,” Mr. Walentas said, “you’ll only bring in people who need to buy toothpaste.”
On Sunday, just three months after its grand opening, the 11,424-square-foot Williamsburg dance club Output will officially debut its roughly 2,500-square-foot penthouse and rooftop bar. The underground party promoter ReSolute will break in the space atop 74 Wythe Avenue, with Kiwi house DJ Recloose, along with resident talent, providing the soundtrack.
“It’s in the heart of Williamsburg with an amazing skyline view, and we have a feeling that we’re all going to [be] spending lots of time there this summer,” reads the ReSolute announcement. Plans for a penthouse and roof deck were included in the original Department of Buildings application filed by David Cutler, of Hustvedt Cutler Architects, in September of 2010.
The Brooklyn Army Terminal plays only a peripheral role in Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr.’s dystopian 1964 novel about the Sunset Park and Bay Bridge neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But the compound—still an active base in the book—is the fulcrum around which Mr. Selby’s panoply of broken soldiers, hookers, junkies and hoods circulates.
Last month, the rejuvenated B.A.T. won a major tenant. The artisanal chocolatier Jacques Torres signed for 39,000 square feet in the 95-year-old compound that served as the United States Army’s port of embarkation during World Wars I and II.
“The building has soul,” Mr. Torres said. “When you go there, you touch history. When I visit, I get that cold chill going through me.”
The ghosts of army grunts and the military-industrial complex are not the only historical vestiges that haunt the 4.1-milion-square-foot B.A.T. and the Sunset Park neighborhood that surrounds it. There’s also a residual perception of the forlorn squalor and grit that permeated Mr. Selby’s novel.
“You know, it’s actually not a bad neighborhood,” Mr. Torres said. “You can go there and not get shot.”
On the Market
To enter the Pacific Street office of the commercial brokerage firm TerraCRG, visitors must buzz reception and walk a few yards through a parking garage before hanging a right.
There’s Sena, an African hair-braiding salon, next door, and beyond that is a row of brownstones that, with minimal touchups, could be airlifted to Park Slope and go unnoticed.
But TerraCRG also sits practically in the shadow of the Barclays Center, and the eye travels to that rusty bird’s nest as you wait for the welcoming buzz.
This location at the traffic, geographic, demographic, architectural and developmental crossroads of Brooklyn suits TerraCRG, a firm launched by Ofer Cohen in 2008 that keeps a strict focus on the ascendant borough’s commercial real estate market.
Vice President of Retail Services Geoff Bailey joined TerraCRG in June of 2010, with previous experience in Brooklyn from five years in sales at Massey Knakal, where he had worked with Mr. Cohen. Mr. Bailey specialized in southeast Brooklyn back then, but thought there was untapped real estate potential throughout the borough.
Two floors encompassing 92,000 square feet of retail space at the luxury residential conversion 185 Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg are on the market.
The leasing agency, TerraCRG, claims in the listing that this is the largest contiguous available retail block in the north Brooklyn neighborhood. Asking rents are at $50 per square foot for minimal divisible lot sizes of 5,000 square feet.