Commercial/retail developer sought for Empire Stores in DUMBO

August 13, 2012 By Linda Collins Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A developer is being sought for the long-vacant Empire Stores on the waterfront in DUMBO, according to Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp.

Myer was giving an update on the progress of the new park at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable’s quarterly luncheon Tuesday at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

A request for proposals (RFP) will be issued soon for the commercial and retail development of the 330,000-square-foot structure that Myer estimates has been vacant for 50 years.

“We hope it will be coming out this fall,” she said.

Asked what a visitor to the park will see in the next five years, Myer ticked off what had already been completed — including the 20 acres of open space at Piers 1 and 6, the area of the park in DUMBO between the bridges and the selection of the hotel developer for the “eco-friendly luxury hotel and apartments,” to be a joint effort by Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital.

Already underway, she said, is work at Pier 5 at the foot of Joralemon Street, where there will be sports fields and a picnic peninsula with barbecues.

Next month, work will begin at Pier 2, where an existing shed will provide shade for five basketball courts, swings and other equipmen; and, at Pier 3, a greenway will be completed.

Additionally, the proposed velodrome, an indoor track facility and fieldhouse that is possibly controversial (according to earlier Eagle articles), is going through a public review process.

“It will also have other indoor recreation facilities. I think people will be pleased,” Myer said.

Asked about funding, she said the park is 80 percent funded, with the $20 million recently added to the budget by Mayor Bloomberg.

Projected income from the hotel project will be $120 million over the period of its 99-year ground lease. Also, the condominium development One Brooklyn Bridge Park has made $15 million in payments to date, according to Myer.

“We want it to be the best public park, but at the same time we have to do these business deals,” she said, adding “We are also keeping tabs on the Watchtower property [that sits along the edge of the park and will most likely be sold off when the religious organization moves its world headquarters to Warwick, N.Y.].”

Myer was one of four speakers at the third of the Roundtable’s 2012 four quarterly luncheons whose proceeds benefit the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Also speaking were developer David Bistricer, principal of Clipper Equities, who is converting the Bossert Hotel on Montague Street back to its original transient hotel status; Alex Barrett, principal of Barrett Design, an architect who is now a developer primarily focused on small-size conversions in Carroll Gardens; and Manhattran Borough President Scott Stringer.

Alex Barrett. Photo by Jonathan FickiesStringer focused on the three major universities in Manhattan — Columbia, Fordham and NYU — all with major expansion plans and typically troubled relationships with their communities.

“We should not develop when community members have the feeling they have no voice. A community must have a role in development,” he said.

He also said, “Sometimes saying no to a developer is saying come back with a better plan.”

Bistricer, who assured those present that the new name of the Bossert would be the Bossert, said that all renovation and restoration work will be complete in 2013.

“In 12 months we will be taking reservations,” he said, noting that the 300 rooms will go for $300 a night on average.Scott Stringer. Photo by Jonathan Fickies

Asked if he was worried about the competition from other downtown hotels, he replied, “We are not worried. The more the merrier.”

“But this one will be different,” he said, noting that the rooftop lounge will be restored, there will be a first-floor restaurant and guest parking will be handled by the nearby Quik Park on Livingston Street.

As for the four existing — and protected — tenants of the former Watchtower building, the renovation work will be done around them.

The final luncheon of 2012 will take place on Nov. 13.

For more information, please send an email to [email protected] or call (347) 381-3705.

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