Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO properties the Jehovah’s Witnesses haven’t yet sold: Part Three

Eye On Real Estate

December 30, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This Watchtower residential building is 97 Columbia Heights, which stands on the site of the Hotel Margaret. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Amen, Amen, Amen.

The Watchtower’s got a trio of fine properties on the sale market.

Its Brooklyn Heights headquarters with the famous red neon “Watchtower” sign at 25-30 Columbia Heights. A terrific residential building at 124 Columbia Heights with jaw-dropping views of the Promenade and Lower Manhattan. A site at 85 Jay St. in DUMBO with nearly 1 million square feet of development rights.

The Watchtower is heading into the final stretch of a years-long process of selling its real estate in the two neighborhoods to prepare for the relocation of its headquarters to upstate Warwick. The move will begin in fall 2016 and continue into 2017, as we’ve reported.

With the Watchtower occupying top of mind among real estate-obsessed Brooklynites, this seems like the right moment to look at the dozen Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO properties the Jehovah’s Witnesses have not put up for sale — yet.

Here are four of them:

* 97 Columbia Heights: A historic hotel where Betty Smith wrote “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” A five-alarm fire on an Arctic-cold night. Fights with the neighbors over the height of the building that would rise from the ashes of the site.

The residential tower at 97 Columbia Heights has a dramatic back story, to say the least.

Originally, the Hotel Margaret stood there, an 1880s-vintage Romanesque Revival stunner built by coffee mogul John Arbuckle that was Brooklyn’s tallest building for many years.

The conflagration that destroyed this Brooklyn Heights Historic District architectural jewel took place in February 1980. At that time, the building was being converted into co-op apartments by developer Bruce Eichner.

It was so cold that night that firefighters were covered in icicles by the time they quelled the blaze.

In spring 1986, after legal battles over his proposed project’s height, Eichner began excavation for a new 11-story apartment building on the site on the corner of Orange Street. In November 1986, the Watchtower purchased the property from H-M Associates, whose managing general partner was Eichner, Finance Department records show.

The Watchtower’s building has 135 residential units, Buildings Department records indicate.    

* 107 Columbia Heights: The construction of 107 Columbia Heights was completed in 1959, before the creation of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, which is where it’s located. The building has frontage on Orange and Willow streets and a big garden.

It is referred to in Finance Department records as “a place of worship and residence for volunteer ministers.”

According to Buildings Department records, it’s 10 stories high and has 161 dwelling units.

* 119 Columbia Heights: This residential building on the corner of Pineapple Street in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District was designed by Ulrich Franzen, a Harvard-educated proponent of Brutalist Architecture. It was one of the first new-building designs for a site in a historic district to win approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The construction of 119 Columbia Heights was completed in 1970.

The site had belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses for so long that there’s no deed for it in online Finance Department records, which go back as far as the 1960s.

* 1 York St.: This massive York Street parking lot has frontage on Front Street. The DUMBO property is just steps away from Washington Street, one of Brooklyn’s most popular selfie-snapping sites thanks to its view of the Manhattan Bridge framed by picturesque old-fashioned buildings.

According to Finance Department records, the Watchtower purchased 1 York St. in 1977 from The Katz Parking System of York St. Inc. (Yes, dear readers, “The” is part of the seller ‘s name.)

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