Brooklyn Heights

Jehovah’s Witnesses sell two prime Brooklyn Heights properties to Hawkins Way Capital

California-based firm plans to renovate 97 and 117-125 Columbia Heights

August 17, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brutalist-style building on the corner plus the three townhouses to the right are 117-125 Columbia Heights, which the Jehovah’s Witnesses just sold to a California-based investment firm. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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California Dreamin’ — on Columbia Heights.

A Los Angeles-based real-estate investment firm is the buyer of two prime Watchtower residential properties located in the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.

Hawkins Way Capital has closed on the purchase of 117-125 Columbia Heights for $18 million and expects to close a deal for 97 Columbia Heights later this month, according to an announcement by Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate, the brokerage repping the buyer.

“Hawkins Way Capital’s flexibility, creative underwriting and strong backing made them the perfect fit for these unique trophy assets, which were meticulously maintained over the years by [the] Watchtower,” Matthew Lesser said in the announcement.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

He and Ravi Kantha of Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate’s Lesser Kantha Team are Hawkins Way Capital’s reps in the Columbia Heights acquisitions.

The New York Post broke the news about the California firm’s property purchases before Leslie J. Garfield Real Estate released its announcement about them.


Brutalist architecture among 19th-century brownstones

The co-founders of Hawkins Way Capital are Ross Walker and Karan Suri.

Suri’s name appears on the deed for 117-125 Columbia Heights as the authorized signatory for 119 Columbia Heights LLC, the entity that made the purchase, city Finance Department records indicate.

The property, which is also referred to as 119 Columbia Heights, consists of a modern building on the corner of Pineapple Street and Columbia Heights plus three brick rowhouses that are adjacent to it.

As the Eagle previously reported, the modern building on the corner was designed by a Harvard-educated proponent of Brutalist Architecture, Ulrich Franzen.

A fact sheet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses describes 119 Columbia Heights as a 60-foot-tall building constructed in 1969, which has 43 residential units and 18 parking spaces.

Hawkins Way Capital has already filed for city Buildings Department permits to do interior demolition and construction and mechanical and plumbing work at 117-125 Columbia Heights, agency records show.

RIP Hotel Margaret

And 97 Columbia Heights, as the Eagle previously reported, is a 100-foot-tall building on the corner of Orange Street that was constructed on the site of the Hotel Margaret.

The Romanesque Revival-style hotel was destroyed by a five-alarm fire on a freezing February 1980 night. The fire occurred while developer Ian Bruce Eichner was in the process of converting the hotel into a co-op apartment building.

After protracted legal disputes, Eichner started constructing a new building on the hotel site in 1986. That year, the Watchtower bought the development from him.

Hawkins Way Capital has also filed for a Buildings Department permit to do interior demolition work at 97 Columbia Heights.

Jared Kushner and Vincent Viola also bought Watchtower properties

The sale of 97 and 117-125 Columbia Heights is another step forward in a years-long effort by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to liquidate their once-massive Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO property portfolio.

The reason for the real estate sell-off is the religious organization’s relocation of its world headquarters from Brooklyn Heights to the town of Warwick in upstate New York.

High-profile purchasers of other Watchtower properties on Columbia Heights include the Kushner Cos., which bought the religious organization’s former headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights with investment partners. This complex has an iconic red neon sign that says “Watchtower,” which Kushner Cos. plans to remove.

Jared Kushner headed the firm until he stepped aside to become a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

Another high-profile purchaser is Vincent Viola, the billionaire owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team and co-owner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby’s winning horse, Always Dreaming.

Viola bought 124 Columbia Heights, a massive residential building with frontage on the Promenade.

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