First public hearing for Williamsburg office project 25 Kent Ave.

February 10, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is the co-developers' vision for an office and light-industrial building planned for 25 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg. Renderings by Steelblue
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Welcome to 12½ Street.

The design for a new office and light-industrial development that Toby Moskovits’ firm Heritage Equity Partners plans to construct at 25 Kent Ave. has a cobblestone street running right through the middle of it.

People working on the Williamsburg project call the proposed pedestrian-only roadway 12½ Street, Rick Parisi of landscape architecture firm MPFP said at a Community Board 1 public hearing on Tuesday night.   

The road, which would be lined by shops, would run parallel to the N. 12th Street and N. 13th Street boundaries of the full-block property — hence its nickname. The other boundaries are Kent and Wythe avenues.

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The development — designed to appeal to small, medium-sized and large tech, creative and maker tenants — is envisioned as two buildings with a glass-walled connector that would shelter 12½ Street from the elements. The connector would begin on the third floor of the eight-floor, 135-foot-tall building.

At both ends of the pedestrian passageway, there would be public plazas. Each one would be 7,200 square feet in size, with shade trees, plants and seating areas.

Parisi and other reps for Heritage Equity Partners offered up details about the proposed 486,000-square-foot project at the first public hearing in a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for 25 Kent.

Moskovits, who is Heritage Equity Partners’ founder and chief executive officer, didn’t participate in the presentation because she is a member of Community Board 1.

The review process is required because Heritage Equity Partners and its co-developer, Philadelphia-based real estate investor Rubenstein Partners, are seeking special permits that would enable them to construct a larger building than zoning allows, with fewer parking spaces than zoning requires.

First spec office building in 40 years

Their Kent Avenue project would be Brooklyn’s first brand-new office building constructed on spec — without any tenants signed up beforehand — in 40 years.

Architecture firms Gensler and HWKN are the project designers.

The co-developers want to include 63,714 square feet of light-industrial space at 25 Kent and thereby be allowed to build an additional 156,533 square feet of office space, attorney Raymond Levin of Slater & Beckerman said at the standing-room-only hearing at Williamsburg’s Swinging Sixties Senior Center.

That’s comparable in size to the additional construction that the zoning allows if a community facility is built. In the manufacturing area where 25 Kent is located, community facilities are medical offices, Levin said.

On the ground floor of 25 Kent, there would be 40,000 square feet of retail space. There would be industrial and office space on the second and third floors, and office space only on floors four through eight. There would be below-grade parking for 275 vehicles.

In tandem with the City Planning Department, the co-developers are seeking a change in city land-use regulations that would enable other property owners in their zoning area to seek permission to construct bigger office buildings with light-industrial space.


More space for manufacturers, please

A speaker at the hearing, Adam Friedman, recommended that a greater percentage of the space in developments like 25 Kent be devoted to manufacturing.

Seventeen percent of the space at 25 Kent would be for light-industrial use, according to Levin, the lawyer.

Friedman, who is the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, also suggested that prospective developers of mixed-use office and light-industrial projects be required to draw up a business plan outlining their target market, the rents to be charged, their marketing strategy and provisions for local hiring,

Leah Archibald, executive director of Evergreen, said at the hearing that the enabling legislation for this type of project should require that the rents be affordable for manufacturing tenants. Evergreen is an organization that provides assistance to North Brooklyn industrial businesses.

When asked what the rent would be for 25 Kent’s light-industrial space, Levin said if manufacturing tenants were able to pay only $14 to $19 per square foot, then that’s what the developers would charge.

Archibald also said there needs to be an effective means of compelling developers to rent as much space to industrial tenants as promised. The city Buildings Department, which is in charge of  making sure these agreements are enforced, has “bigger fish to fry,” she said.

Other speakers applauded the planned Kent Avenue development.

Rich Mazur, who has lived in the area since 1950, said he’s hoping for “a return to a live-work community” in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

“We need places people can work in North Brooklyn,” said another project supporter, William Harvey, who has lived in the area for 30 years.


Family ties to Williamsburg

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon at Heritage Equity Partners’ Williamsburg office, Moskovits said she’s the third-generation member of her family to work in the neighborhood.

Her immigrant grandfather had a business in Williamsburg. As a child, she spent time with her father in his Williamsburg factory. Now, her office is on Driggs Avenue.

There’s a critical need for space for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in Brooklyn, she said. That’s why Heritage Equity Partners and Rubenstein Partners are building 25 Kent.

“We believe passionately in what we’re doing,” she said.

The spec office project is referred to as 19 Kent Ave. in Buildings Department records. Site prep has been underway since last year, when existing buildings on the property were demolished, the Brooklyn Eagle previously reported.

Moskovits’ firm bought the site with investment partners for $31.75 million in 2012, city Finance Department records indicate.

In December 2015, Rubenstein Partners bought out the other investors in a $132.4 million transaction, Finance Department records show. Simon Dushinsky of the Rabsky Group was the authorized signatory for the sellers.

David Falk of real estate brokerage Newmark Grubb Knight Frank has been hired to handle the leasing of 25 Kent.

The development site’s neighbors on Wythe Avenue include two hotels that are under construction, the William Vale and the Hoxton, whose home base is in London.

The Wythe Hotel, which belongs to Two Trees Management, is located there as well.

Moskovits’ firm is nearly finished with the construction of the Williamsburg Hotel at 96 Wythe Ave.

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