Brooklyn Heights

Jehovah’s Witnesses put 97 Columbia Heights up for sale

Brooklyn Heights residential building stands on the site of the Hotel Margaret

October 27, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
All Along The Watchtower: The tower at right is 97 Columbia Heights, which the Jehovah's Witnesses have just put up for sale. Photos courtesy of Jehovah's Witnesses
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Amen and hallelujah: The Jehovah’s Witnesses have put another prime Brooklyn Heights property up for sale.

It is 97 Columbia Heights, an 11-story residential building that has accommodated hundreds of the Watchtower’s headquarters staffers during the past three decades.

“The building’s charming character and ideal location make it a premiere residential space,” David Semonian, a Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman, said in an announcement Wednesday about the sale offering.

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The 97-unit tower stands on the site of the Hotel Margaret. The famed inn was destroyed in a five-alarm fire on a frigid winter night in 1980 while it was undergoing a co-op conversion by developer Ian Bruce Eichner.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been a presence in Brooklyn Heights for a century.

The sale of 97 Columbia Heights is one of the final steps in the liquidation of their once-vast Brooklyn Heights real estate portfolio in conjunction with the relocation of their world headquarters from the neighborhood to upstate Warwick, NY.

Donald Trump’s son-in-law bought the Brooklyn Heights HQ

The most notable of the religious organization’s big-ticket sales to date has been that of its headquarters complex at 25-30 Columbia Heights.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the CEO of the Kushner Companies, which purchased the headquarters for $340 million in a joint venture with CIM Group and LIVWRK.

The 88,610-square-foot Columbia Heights tower that has just hit the market has superb views of the East River and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. It has a rooftop terrace, and some of the building’s residential units have private outdoor terraces as well. Also, it has an indoor garage with 30 parking spaces.

The building was designed by architect Stanton Eckstut.

The Witnesses purchased it in 1986 while it was under construction by Eichner.

It is located on the corner of Orange Street at the northern edge of the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The area is subject to a special limited-height rule, with a cap of 50 feet on new development — so its purchaser would be getting an irreplaceable building.  

The Hotel Margaret, a Romanesque Revival-style building designed by important architect Frank Freeman, was built in 1889. At one time, it was the tallest building in Brooklyn.

Famous folk who stayed or resided at the hotel included Betty Smith, who wrote “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” while living there.

New HQ in Warwick opened on Sept. 1

The residential building that replaced the hotel was beloved by many members of the Witnesses.

“I lived there for a couple years when the building was new. I was newly married,” Richard Devine, a Watchtower spokesman, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“It was a beautiful building The views were tremendous. We really enjoyed it.”

He and his wife lived in a unit with a bay window — so they could see the Promenade, the East River and other Brooklyn Heights Watchtower buildings.

“It was a wonderful place to live,” he recalled. “You got to know your neighbors well.

“It was really good-quality construction, so it was very quiet.

“The spaces were light-filled. It was a pleasant place to be.”

Later, he and his wife lived in The Towers at 21 Clark St. — another Watchtower property that is now up for sale.

Sept. 1 was the official date of the opening of the Watchtower’s Warwick headquarters.

“It’s really happening,” Devine said.

The majority of the world headquarters departments and their personnel will complete their moves from Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO to Warwick by the end of November, Devine said.

Three other Watchtower properties are also for sale

Three other Brooklyn Watchtower properties are currently also for sale.

Across the street from 97 Columbia Heights, there’s 107 Columbia Heights, a 154,000-plus-square-foot residential building with a huge landscaped courtyard. The building was constructed just a few years before the neighborhood was landmarked.

The Towers, also in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, was originally a swanky 1920s-vintage hotel.

And in DUMBO, 74 Adams St. is a 144,913-square-foot, mixed-use development site located outside the neighborhood’s landmarked district.

A vehicle-maintenance facility currently stands on the site.

A handful of properties in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO that still belong to the Jehovah’s Witnesses have yet to go onto the sale market.


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