Jehovah’s Witnesses sell 85 Jay St. to Jared Kushner-led partnership

December 21, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The parking lot site at 85 Jay St. is shown just right of bottom center, outlined in white. Image courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses
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On Tuesday, Jehovah’s Witnesses sold 85 Jay St. to an investment partnership led by Kushner Companies, CIM Group and LIVWRK. Spanning an entire city block in burgeoning DUMBO, the 135,000-square foot development site, currently a parking lot, comes with 1.1 million square feet in as-of-right development rights.

The CEO of Kushner Cos. is Jared Kushner, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

The acquisition comes on the heels of the partnership’s August purchase of 25-30 Columbia Heights, the historic Brooklyn Heights headquarters of the Witnesses, from Watchtower Real Estate. The 739,000-square-foot property set on 2.3 acres includes five addresses: 25, 30, 50 and 58 Columbia Heights and 55 Furman St.  The partnership intends to renovate and reposition the property into a world-class office campus.

Kushner also partnered with LIVWRK, along with RFR, to acquire the nearby DUMBO Heights campus from Watchtower Real Estate in October 2013. In less than three years, the partnership has undertaken a more than $100 million gut renovation to transform the 1-million-square-foot site into a cutting-edge creative office campus in Brooklyn. Two of Kushner’s other notable acquisitions and repositionings in Manhattan with CIM Group have been sold: 2 Rector Street in the Financial District and 200 Lafayette Street in SoHo.

“This is a rare opportunity to acquire a substantial property that has by-right development potential for a mix of uses,” said Shaul Kuba, co-founder and principal of CIM Group. “The site is well-located near transportation, thriving neighborhoods and desirable amenities, making it attractive for a variety of uses catering to residents, businesses, retailers and the needs of the community.”

“85 Jay has tremendous upside, and we’re eager to begin its transformation into a dynamic project just steps from the Dumbo Heights office campus and Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Laurent Morali, president of Kushner. “We’re excited to continue our work in Brooklyn with the CIM/LIVWRK team.”

“We feel fortunate to be co-developing this game-changing project together with CIM and Kushner,” said Asher Abehsera, founder and CEO of LIVWRK. “85 Jay St. has long been the hole in the Dumbo doughnut. We aim to introduce a world-class project to the vibrant waterfront district.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the block included several decaying buildings. When the Witnesses purchased the site, they intended to develop the property to accommodate their expanding printing operations, according to Witnesses headquarters.

The Witnesses opted instead to move their printing, binding and shipping operations in Brooklyn to their facility in Wallkill, N.Y. More recently, the Witnesses relocated their world headquarters from Brooklyn to Warwick, N.Y., and over the past several years, have been selling their real estate holdings in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.

Richard Devine, a spokesman for the Witnesses, said, “Properties like 85 Jay St. don’t become available every day, especially in view of its size, location and potential future use.”

Another DUMBO Watchtower development site was recently sold, namely 69 Adams St., for $65 million.

Brooklyn native Vincent Viola, Trump’s pick for secretary of the Army, also bought an important Watchtower property earlier this year.

Information from World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses and LIVWRK, CIM Group and Kushner was used in this report.


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