Brooklyn Heights

Developers win Landmarks approval for 59 Middagh St. makeover

August 11, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This design drawing shows Brooklyn Heights house 59 Middagh St. — the gray building in the center of the image — which is getting a makeover by 522 Capital Partners. Drawing by Lichten Craig Architects via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
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A real estate investment, construction and advisory firm founded by two women with heavy-duty industry experience plans to enlarge one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn Heights, 59 Middagh St., and turn it into a single-family home.

That’s expected to be a lucrative move, whether the house is leased to a high-paying tenant or sold after the makeover.

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Brenda Walker and Jennifer Robertson of 522 Capital Partners plan to build on the rooftop and add expansion space onto the back of the Federal-style, clapboard-clad frame house.

They will also construct a front stoop — which the building had until the 1920s, according to their project architect, Kevin Lichten.

The historically significant house was built in 1832. It is located in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

On Tuesday, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously approved the makeover design with minor modifications during a public hearing at its Lower Manhattan headquarters.

The plan as devised without the modifications ordered by the LPC called for the addition of 1,318 square feet to the existing 5,790-square-foot building, which is now a three-family house, city Buildings Department filings indicate.

The estimated cost of the proposed remodeling is $1.01 million, according to Buildings Department documents.

“I think the design is very sensitive,” LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said before the vote.

Commissioners told the owners to work with LPC staffers on reducing the height of the rooftop addition — which according to the proposed plan was to be 50 feet at the top of a skylight, the maximum building height allowed in this part of the neighborhood.

The developers were also instructed to change the planned configuration of the windows on 59 Middagh’s rear façade.  

In testimony before the vote, preservationists criticized the size of the proposed additions — which will be visible to the public on the east side of the house because there’s a parking lot alongside the building.

Barbara Zay of the Historic Districts Council said that because of zoning, the next-door lot will always be empty, “so the added bulk on the roof and in the rear will be highly visible in perpetuity, dwarfing this house even more.”

Walker and Robertson are in charge of the entity that’s the managing member of an LLC that bought 59 Middagh for $3 million in November 2014, according to city Finance Department records. The asking price had been $5 million, online postings indicate.

The earliest resident of the house to be listed in a city directory was William Rog, a professor of Hebrew, in 1832, Clay Lancaster wrote in his book “Old Brooklyn Heights: New York’s First Suburb.”

The new owners are real-estate entrepreneurs with high-octane resumes.

Walker, who has an MBA from Penn’s Wharton School, was a Smith Breeden Associates senior vice president before launching 522 Capital Partners with Robertson in 2011. Walker — who sat among the spectators at Tuesday’s Landmarks hearing but did not speak — has also worked for the White House Council of Economic Advisors, JP Morgan Asset Management, MetLife and other employers.

Robertson, who has a master’s degree in real estate from New York University and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Michigan, was Robert Martin Co.’s acquisitions director. Her earlier employers include GE Capital, JP Morgan Investment Management, IAC and Gensler.


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