Gowanus

Forget food! Landlord wants ‘Whole’ truth about Whole Foods’ landmark renovation

Eye On Real Estate

September 16, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Don't be shy — shed that shroud and show your face, O Coignet Building. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Attention Whole Foods: The Coignet Building’s owner has a message for you.

It’s about that renovation you’ve been doing of the lonely little landmark tucked between two wings of your supermarket on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street in Gowanus.

“Tell them I’d like to see it finished before I die,” Richard Kowalski, age 71, said in a phone interview with the Brooklyn Eagle.

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“I’m not a happy camper,” Kowalski said.

The giant gourmet grocery chain has not given him any info about when the estimated $1.3 million exterior renovation of the iconic early 1870s-vintage commercial building at 360 Third Ave. will be completed.

“It’s very upsetting,” he said.

“I only wish I knew when they will finish it.”


Work got underway in March 2014.

By August 2014, workers had finished stripping the red fake-brick finish off the exterior, uncovering the historic moonlight-white “artificial stone” that has been hidden for decades.

But the work’s still not done. The building remains hidden by construction netting and a sidewalk shed.

The city Buildings Department just issued a permit in late July for the entire renovation job. In addition to façade repair, it will include the reconstruction of stairs and the installation of new windows and doors. The city construction agency had approved the permit application for this job in December 2013.

Kowalski said Whole Foods was supposed to start the Coignet Building fix-up in 2006.

The supermarket chain promised to renovate the eye-catching landmark as part of the deal Kowalski made to sell the land around it to Whole Foods.

The sale price for the surrounding property was $4,945,200, city Finance Department records indicate.

Whole Foods built its Gowanus store on the site.

The Eagle asked Whole Food’s PR reps how much longer the Coignet Building’s renovation is going to take but didn’t get an answer by deadline.

The building’s pretty, pale artificial stone exterior can be seen only by peeking through the cracks in the sidewalk shed or really staring at the heavy black construction netting that shrouds it.

The artificial stone on the façade is a construction material that was patented in France in the 1850s by François Coignet. It’s actually concrete shaped to look like granite blocks.

Originally, this was the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building. Its ghostly-hued exterior was a three-dimensional advertisement for the artificial stone that was produced in a factory complex that surrounded it — just like Whole Foods does now.

Kowalski is offering the building for sale or rent. Has a potential taker stepped forward?

“We have several prospects,” he told the Eagle.

The asking price for its sale is $5 million, according to an online posting by Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate brokerage that’s marketing the property.


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