Walentas buys Gowanus site, but councilman vows fight if developer seeks residential rezoning

Canal is becoming a boomtown, but Lander says he wants jobs not homes

April 19, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here is the Lowe’s site Two Trees Management reportedly now owns.
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It’s tool time!

Two Trees Management just bought the Lowe’s hardware store in Gowanus – but the neighborhood’s councilman is already saying he’ll fight any expansion of residential development to the relatively untouched Park Slope side of the neighborhood’s tainted canal.

The DUMBO firm’s purchase of the nine-acre Lowe’s site is part of a $100-plus million property buy that gives the prolific developer a mammoth footprint on the east shore of the Gowanus Canal.

Real estate executives predict that the massive residential development that has occurred along the canal’s West Bank will jump like an oil-slick fire to the East Bank.

“New York City is looking to rezone enormous parts of the city to increase residential construction so the city’s population can increase. This is a trend that Two Trees has picked up on,” a plugged-in Brooklyn real estate executive told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“We all know that Two Trees looks ahead by many years. Two Trees has a vision for the future that right now dovetails with the vision that city government has,” the exec added. “Two Trees will get its rezoning and go residential with this site.”

Not so fast, said City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Gowanus), who told the Eagle that he would fight Two Trees if it seeks a zoning change to allow for residential development.

“As long as I am Councilmember, there will be no residential zoning in Gowanus’ Industrial Business Zone,” said Lander, who won’t be in office after 2021, thanks to term limits.

Lander said he has been “crystal-clear with all stakeholders” that he opposes residential development in the Industrial Business Zone, though he said he is open to a “job-generating project” on its property, especially one that creates manufacturing and light industrial jobs.

That concept was also backed by Michelle de la Uz, the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

“A lot of developers are seeing there are opportunities in areas other than residential projects,” she told the Eagle. “We advocate for affordable housing – but jobs are important, too.”

Two Trees declined to comment Thursday about its Gowanus plans.

A deal that is a blockbuster either way

The Real Deal reported that Jed and David Walentas’ family company bought a $53 million leasehold from Forest City Ratner – which developed such bold-faced Brooklyn projects as Barclays Center, Metrotech and Atlantic Yards, which is now called Pacific Park.

In recent months, Forest City Ratner has sold off many of its New York properties, including the majority of its stake in Pacific Park.

The $53 million is “relatively low,” another Brooklyn real estate executive told the Eagle, suggesting that Lowe’s is not moving out any time soon.

“The Walentas family takes a long view with its developments,” the executive said. “This could turn out to be a super winner when it does happen.”

Whatever happens at the site, it’s the latest example of how developers continue to turn the Gowanus Canal zone — home to a toxic Superfund site — into a new Gold Coast. And tenants are flocking to the area.

For instance, Lightstone Group recently constructed an apartment building at 365 Bond St. and Atlantic Realty Development constructed one at 363 Bond St. Both are situated beside the canal’s Carroll Street Bridge on the West Bank of the fetid corpse of water, but the Lowe’s and Pathmark site are on the relatively untouched East Bank, bounded by the canal, Second Avenue, and 10th and 11th streets.

On the Lowe’s site alone, Two Trees could build an 800,000-square-foot development, The Real Deal reported. That’s the equivalent of 14 football fields. But what gets built will depend on whether the city grants Two Trees a residential rezoning. And that process takes years.

Then again, the entire Two Trees empire was built by founder David Walentas, who started buying derelict and industrial properties in what is now known as DUMBO in the late 1970s. He patiently waited decades to reap millions in profits.

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