Brooklyn Heights

All Along the Watchtower: The Jehovah’s Witnesses are selling 107 Columbia Heights

April 29, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is 107 Columbia Heights, which the Jehovah's Witnesses have put up for sale.

Another jewel in the Watchtower’s Brooklyn Heights real estate crown is for sale.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are marketing 107 Columbia Heights — an 11-story residential building with a huge landscaped courtyard that’s a one-of-a-kind property in the height-restricted, landmarked neighborhood.

The move is another step forward in the religious organization’s years-long process of liquidating its Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO properties because it’s moving its headquarters to upstate Warwick, N.Y. The Watchtower has been an important presence — and property owner — in Brooklyn Heights for a century.

According to the Commercial Observer, which first reported 107 Columbia Heights’ availability, the building could go for more than $1,000 per square foot, meaning more than $154 million at minimum.

A Brownstoner.com story suggests whoever winds up buying the 154,000-plus-square-foot building would be unlikely to tear it down, and instead might want to convert it to luxury condos, rental apartments or a hotel.

A Watchtower spokesman said he was unable to provide the Brooklyn Eagle with a statement about 107 Columbia Heights. The organization’s marketing website for the property calls it “an exceptionally located opportunity in the historic residential neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.”

It has views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor, the website says.

The 102-foot-tall building, constructed in 1959, has 161 residential units, private and rooftop terraces — and a large auditorium, an amenity you won’t find in a run-of-the-mill apartment house.

The building was renovated in 2007, the website notes.

A 1988 document in city Finance Department records signed by L.A. Swingle, secretary-treasurer of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, describes 107 Columbia Heights as “a place of worship and residence for volunteer ministers.”

The L-shaped building has frontage on three streets. On its Columbia Heights side, it faces 124 Columbia Heights, a superbly situated residential building that faces the Promenade. The Jehovah’s Witnesses put 124 Columbia Heights up for sale this past December.

On its Orange Street side, newly-for-sale 107 Columbia Heights faces 97 Columbia Heights, which belongs to the Watchtower and was built on the site of the historic Hotel Margaret.

On its Willow Street side, 107 Columbia Heights shares the block with the famous house where Truman Capote lived, 70 Willow St.

Other Watchtower sites reportedly selling for $700 million

As the Jehovah’s Witnesses begin their departure from Brooklyn, they’ve made a handshake deal to sell their headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights and a sought-after development site at 85 Jay St. in DUMBO to Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the New York Post recently reported.

The combined sale price of the two properties is roughly $700 million, according to the Post.

The headquarters has the iconic red neon “Watchtower” sign that can be seen from the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

Kushner Cos. and partner investor RFR already own a cluster of six former Watchtower buildings in DUMBO, for which they paid $375 million.

According to the Brooklyn Heights Association’s website, the Witnesses will start moving nearly 1,000 residents out of seven “dormitory properties” in Brooklyn Heights. The moving process is scheduled to begin on May 2 and continue through January 2017.

One of the buildings they will vacate is 107 Columbia Heights, the website says.