Amen, Brother: First lease signed at DUMBO Heights, the Witnesses’ former bible-printing plants

May 13, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Score one for Jared Kushner, his DUMBO Watchtower buildings – and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

The former Bible-printing plants that the Kushner Cos. and its co-investors bought last year have landed their first big tenant – and it’s one that will draw positive attention to the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, of which Kushner’s development is a part.

The new tenant is Etsy, the well-regarded online shopping site with artsy-craftsy wares, which has signed a lease for 200,000 square feet. The company announced the pending move of its headquarters to Kushner’s complex – which will take place in 2016 – on its blog Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal identified the building where Etsy will construct its headquarters as 117 Adams St.

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The former industrial property is one of the five buildings in Kushner’s DUMBO Heights redevelopment, which is to be devoted to office space for techies and creative types with hipster-friendly amenities such as a beer hall, yoga and spin classes – and daycare.

“This is a great thing for the Tech Triangle because Etsy has such a recognizable name,” said Robert F. Hebron IV, associate broker at Ingram & Hebron Realty in Brooklyn Heights. “People from Silicon Alley to Silicon Valley are aware of this lease deal.”

Etsy’s huge presence in Kushner’s DUMBO development will draw up-and-comers in the tech world to the area – which is sure to boost the fortunes of the Tech Triangle, which includes Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and DUMBO.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Navy Yard and the DUMBO Improvement District are working together on initiatives to turn the area into a techies’ hub.

Signing up Etsy as its very first tenant will give momentum to the leasing campaign for 1 million-square-foot-plus DUMBO Heights.

“A tenant like this coming into what’s essentially a new development will attract ‘like kind,’” Hebron said. And “this is the kind of tenant to have these days.”

Last week, Kushner, who is married to mega-developer Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, said at a Real Estate Roundtable luncheon at the Brooklyn Historical Society that 400,000 square feet of space in the complex was “pretty much spoken for.” Brooklyn real estate players are eager to find out the identity of the other space takers.   

The Kushner Cos. – which owns the Puck Building in SoHo – bought the Witnesses’ Bible-printing plants for $240 million with high-profile Manhattan landlord RFR and LIVWRK Holdings. The other buildings are 55 Prospect St., 81 Prospect St., 77 Sands St. and 175 Pearl St.

They were included in a six-building, $375 million package that also includes a hotel at 90 Sands St. – which the Witnesses will continue to own for now.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are in the process of selling off their massive holdings in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights to prep for a move upstate.

Etsy is getting $5 million in tax breaks from New York State in exchange for pledging to increase the number of employees in DUMBO and a Hudson Valley location to 740 by 2019 from a current 400, the Journal reported.

The company’s office space at 117 Adams will include a roof deck and prominent outdoor signage, the Journal also reported. There was no word on how much rent Etsy will be paying. Asking rents for office space at DUMBO Heights are less than $60 per square foot, published sources have previously reported.

“It is a great transaction for Kushner and Brooklyn,” said Glenn Markman of Cushman & Wakefield, who was Etsy’s broker in a previous lease deal at 55 Washington St. in DUMBO, a building owned by Two Trees Management.  

Before that, Etsy had an office in the Clocktower Building at 325 Gold St. in Downtown Brooklyn.

Techies and creative firms clamor for space in DUMBO but it’s in scarce supply – the vacancy rate for office space in the waterfront neighborhood is about 1%.

DUMBO is a well-established techie neighborhood because the Walentas family’s Two Trees Management has converted a slew of former industrial buildings there into modern offices.

“What they’re calling DUMBO Heights would not be possible without the work of David Walentas over the last 20 years,” Hebron said.

It was unclear whether Etsy would hold onto any space at 55 Washington St.

“We’ve been aware of their desire to significantly expand their footprint for quite some time and it’s excellent news that they’ll do so here in DUMBO,” said David Lombino, Two Trees’ director of special projects.

“The more ‘creative class’ companies that stay and grow here, the better it will be for the neighborhood overall.” 

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