Brooklyn Heights

A first look at Kushner Cos.’ makeover of the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters

May 31, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Kushner Cos. — which now owns the Watchtower headquarters — was headed by Jared Kushner until he stepped aside to serve as his father-in- law President Trump's senior adviser. AP Photo by Evan Vucci

Whose name will replace the Watchtower’s on the iconic red-neon sign on top of the former Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters in Brooklyn Heights?

Renovation is getting underway at 25-30 Columbia Heights, which is being transformed into a campus with about 635,000 square feet of Class A office space and about 35,000 square feet of stores and public space for arts and culture.

The complex now belongs to the company Jared Kushner headed until he stepped aside to become a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Trump.

A new tenant at the five-building complex will presumably obtain the right to put its name in lights where the word “Watchtower” has glowed for many decades.

The neon sign could serve as a big brand-enhancement tool. Its red letters are visible to people on the Lower Manhattan shoreline, on East River ferry boats and in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

A spokesman for Columbia Heights Associates, which is the joint venture of the Kushner Cos., CIM Group and LIVWRK Holdings, declined to comment when the Brooklyn Eagle asked whether the largest tenant will get to put its name on the neon sign — or if a smaller tenant might be allowed to pay a fee for the rights to the sign.

The spokesman said rents for space in the complex will “fall within competitive range.”

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The complex’s new name is Panorama

The developers have given 25-30 Columbia Heights a new name — Panorama — and unveiled new project renderings.

The campus will be big enough to house an estimated 5,000 workers at full capacity, the developers said in a news release.

Most of the office space will have 11-foot ceilings. There will be 20 private and public terraces. The developers plan to leave intact a skybridge and a parking garage.

“Panorama will mark a shift in what America’s best companies expect in an urban office setting,” Asher Abehsera, LIVWRK’s founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“Panorama will be more than just a place to work,” Abehsera said. “It will be a thriving community offering the best visibility and views in New York City, world-class office space and an opportunity for tenants to infuse the campus with their culture from the very start.”

The former Watchtower complex is located outside the boundaries of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. So Kushner Cos. and its partners will not be required to seek the approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for their remodeling designs.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses sold their former headquarters complex to Kushner Cos. and its investor partners for $340 million in August 2016, city Finance Department records indicate.

The deal was part of the sell-off of its Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO real-estate holdings because of the religious group’s relocation of its headquarters to Warwick in upstate New York.

In the past few years, Kushner Cos. and various investment partners have paid the Watchtower more than $1 billion for property in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.

The other purchased properties, which are located in DUMBO, include a cluster of former Bible-printing plants that have been turned into a hip office complex called DUMBO Heights and a parking lot at 85 Jay St. with about 1 million square feet of development rights.

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