Brooklyn Heights

Jehovah’s Witnesses close on the sale of 107 Columbia Heights

May 10, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is Brooklyn Heights Watchtower property 107 Columbia Heights, which has just been sold to an affiliate of Clipper Realty Inc.

Prime Brooklyn Heights property purchased by David Bistricer's company

Done deal!

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have closed on the sale of 107 Columbia Heights, a gated, L-shaped building in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District that the religious group’s world headquarters staff members called home for more than a half-century.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Watchtower announced the completion of the building’s sale to an affiliate of Clipper Realty Inc.

The founder, co-chairman and chief executive officer of publicly traded Clipper Realty Inc. is David Bistricer.

Another company Bistricer heads is the co-owner of Brooklyn Heights’ Hotel Bossert — which was also bought from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The sale of 107 Columbia Heights is another step forward in a multi-year marketing effort by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to sell off their once-vast property portfolio in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The reason for the real-estate liquidation is their decision to move their world headquarters to upstate Warwick, NY.

Until recently, the headquarters had been located at 25-30 Columbia Heights — a complex of eye-catching Brooklyn Heights buildings with an iconic red neon sign that says “Watchtower.”

Kushner Cos. purchased 25-30 Columbia Heights for $340 million with investment partners last year. At that time, Jared Kushner headed the company. Kushner has since stepped aside to serve as senior adviser to President Trump, his father-in-law.

The Kushner Cos. and its investment partners have paid more than $1 billion to buy Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO real estate from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

‘One of the focal points of Brooklyn Heights’

But more about 107 Columbia Heights. Bistricer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Brooklyn Eagle about the purchase of the building.

As the Eagle previously reported, Clipper Realty Inc. announced in February that it had agreed to purchase the approximately 154,000-square-foot residential building for $87.5 million, or $569 per square foot.

At that time, Clipper Realty Inc. said it planned to add 12 apartments to 161-unit 107 Columbia Heights by remodeling “various public areas” of the property.

As of Tuesday evening, the deed for 107 Columbia Heights had not been posted on the city Finance Department’s website. So the Eagle was unable to determine whether the closing price for the 11-story property was different from the price agreed upon last winter.

The building, which has frontage on Orange and Willow streets, is located near an entrance to Brooklyn Heights’ Promenade.

The Columbia Heights residential property was built in 1959 — before the city Landmarks Preservation Commission designated much of Brooklyn Heights as a historic district, and height restrictions were imposed on new construction in the neighborhood. The building could not be replicated today.

It has a courtyard with a garden and a fountain, plus a rooftop terrace with views of Lower Manhattan skyscrapers, the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.

“The property served us well for more than 50 years and became one of the focal points of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood,” Watchtower spokesman David Semonian said in a statement.

“It was nice to see our neighbors, especially young families, appreciate 107 Columbia Heights as they walked by or enjoyed our fountain and garden entry,” Semonian said.

Another of Bistricer’s companies co-owns the Hotel Bossert

In April, the Jehovah’s Witnesses used lightweight “cellular concrete,” also known as Foamcrete, to seal off a tunnel connecting 107 Columbia Heights and another big residential property, 124 Columbia Heights, the Eagle previously reported.

For decades, several of the religious group’s Brooklyn Heights buildings have been connected by a network of underground pedestrian passageways. It is the Watchtower’s responsibility to deactivate these tunnels when it no longer uses them.

Vincent Viola bought 124 Columbia Heights from the Watchtower for $105 million last year, Finance Department records indicate.

The billionaire is the owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team and the co-owner of this year’s Kentucky Derby-winning horse, Always Dreaming.

As for Bistricer, he purchased the Hotel Bossert for $81 million in 2012 through Clipper Equity, which is a different company from the one that purchased 107 Columbia Heights.

The co-purchaser of the Bossert was the Chetrit Group.

 

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