Eat, Drink and Be Merry – in Empire Stores’ rooftop beer garden

Eye On Real Estate: By the way, the glass rooftop's modified design got the state's okay

May 21, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Empire Stores, which is getting a historically appropriate makeover. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The views at this beer garden will give you a buzz.

A brew palace with al fresco drinking space is headed for the roof of Empire Stores, which has A-plus vistas of Gotham at its most glorious and the Brooklyn Bridge.

We got a good look the other day, during a tour with developer Jack Cayre of Midtown Equities.

An elegant restaurant with a terrace is also on tap for the rooftop of the landmarked 19th Century DUMBO warehouses.

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The two businesses have leases out, Cayre said. His family’s firm is restoring and redeveloping Empire Stores as a hub for tech firms that he expects will be ready to open in fall 2015.

Having a lease out means the contract is drawn up but not signed. Unless somebody gets jilted at the altar, it’s going to happen.

A French brasserie has a lease out for ground-floor space, Cayre said. Other food tenants with leases out for locations in the iconic DUMBO waterfront industrial property are top restaurateurs in New York City or Brooklyn and international restaurateurs who plan to make their U.S. debut at Empire Stores.

The ground-floor restaurants will be situated on the side of the landmarked property that faces Brooklyn Bridge Park and the shoreline. For ground-floor spaces on its Water Street side, Midtown Equities is speaking to a yoga studio and a gym, said Cayre, who lives in Gravesend.

Midtown Equities has one signed lease for Empire Stores – a big one. Home furnishings retailer West Elm made a deal last fall for 150,000 square feet for its corporate headquarters, a shop – and a java joint in partnership with coffee roaster La Colombe. (Yes, there will be a hangout for coffee connoisseurs in the famed former coffee warehouses.)

There are leases out for 50% of the space West Elm didn’t take at Empire Stores, Cayre said. The complex will have about 430,000 square feet of net rentable space.

Tech firms are enthusiastic about the project.

“We knew this is a great market, but it’s incredible to see how fast tech companies are gravitating to Brooklyn,” he said.

Asking rents at Empire Stores are big numbers for Brooklyn: $90 per square foot for office space in a glass-faced rooftop addition, $65 per square foot on other floors, $150 per square foot for park-facing ground-floor space and $125 per square foot for retail space on the property’s Water Street side, The Real Deal reported.

The design of the glass addition Midtown Equities plans to build on the roof has been modified – and approved by the state entity that has oversight over Empire Stores.

“Through a consultation process, the State Historic Preservation Office accepted a revised design of the rooftop addition to make it lower, smaller and set back from the roof edge to minimize its visibility from the immediate viewshed,” said Dan Keefe, SHPO’s deputy public information officer.

The viewsheds are locations where the public would have seen Empire Stores in the 1800s, such as Water and Old Dock streets and Main and Plymouth streets, Cayre said.

The glass addition will have a “bulkier” appearance than the original design, he said. “It’s going to have a little more weight.”

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission, which plays an advisory role with Empire Stores but has no power to approve its construction designs, was critical of Studio V Architecture’s original plans for the rooftop addition during a December hearing.  The roof re-do would turn Empire Stores into “a glassed-in party venue destined to become just another wedding mill,” DUMBO resident Ethan Goldman said in testimony at the hearing.

“That’s not the case,” Cayre said the other day when we asked for comment. Part of the rooftop addition will be office space with a terrace, he said. Midtown Equities is in talks with a potential tenant for it.

Another portion of the rooftop will be public green space.

For more of Rob Abruzzese’s Empire Stores photos, see our Industrial Eye Candy feature.

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Empire State of Mind: Inside the iconic Empire Stores warehouses



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