Brooklyn Heights

Witness The Change: 183 Columbia Heights now a high-end haven

Eye On Real Estate: Back To The Future For The Luxury Riverview

November 14, 2013 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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It’s back to the future for a Brooklyn Heights apartment house that belonged to the Watchtower for a quarter-century.

Developer David Mitchell, who bought 183 Columbia Heights last year for $6.6 million, has turned it back into a high-end property with seven apartments, the same number it had when it was built in 1899.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses – in the middle of a massive sell-off of Heights and DUMBO properties prior to moving upstate – had divided the building into 13 apartments.

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Mitchell Holdings also revived 183 Columbia Heights’ historic name, the Riverview.

“It had been neutered of all detail by previous owners,” said Douglas Elliman associate real estate broker Rob Gross, who is marketing the apartments. “We recaptured the grandeur of the full-floor layouts and the logical flow that allowed us to create three-bedroom homes.”

The units in the nearly-completed renovation project are condos. When turn-of-the-20th-Century developer Louis Horowitz constructed the seven-story red-brick building, the apartments were rentals. He was going for the luxury market of his day, just like Mitchell is.

Brooklyn Eagle advertisements in 1900 touted the Riverview as the “most aristocratic apartment house in Brooklyn,” with an electric elevator – then a hot new thing for residential buildings – liveried hall and elevator boys and long-distance phone service in every apartment.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York bought the building, which is on a land-marked block, in 1986. Presumably to obscure the Witnesses’ involvement in the deal, a few months earlier a buyer named 777 Eleets-Stahl Strasse Corp. signed a memorandum of contract of sale with a $2.2 million purchase price, city records show.

The apartment house is one of 17 Heights and DUMBO properties the Witnesses sold in the past two years. Another 16 remain in their possession as the religious group builds a new headquarters in Warwick, N.Y.

Numerous Watchtower buildings in the Heights house ministers who take vows of poverty. The renovations at 183 Columbia Heights embrace luxury rather than asceticism, the Eagle saw during a recent visit. The condos have upscale Miele, Viking and Smeg appliances and Italian marble bathrooms. The rooms are graciously proportioned and light-filled.

Floors two through seven each have a single apartment. The first-floor apartment is a duplex with lower-level space and a rear and side garden.    

Asking prices start at $1.995 million. There’s a signed contract for the seventh-floor condo, which has an asking price of $2.55 million, Gross said. It’s got killer views of the Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

A contract is close to being signed for the apartment on the sixth floor, he said. The asking price is $2.45 million. It also has superb views.

He expects the building to be ready for occupancy in January or February.

There are few three-bedroom condos recently built in the Heights. As comps – comparable apartments for pricing – Elliman looked at 20 Henry St. condos, which were around $1,000 per square foot almost two years ago “in a slightly less frothy market,” Gross said.

For 183 Columbia Heights, the asking prices start at $1,150 per square foot on the lower floors and are more than $1,400 per square foot on the top floors.

Elliman colleagues Gregory Williamson and Jamie Mitchell share the 183 Columbia Heights marketing assignment with him.


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