Greenpoint landmark 144 Franklin St. hits the market
Eye on Real Estate: Sellers reminisce about the Mechanics and Traders Bank
Icon for sale!
The most recognizable building in Greenpoint is up for grabs.
Potential buyers have already made multiple offers for the landmarked 1890s eye-catcher known as 144 Franklin St., aka the Mechanics and Traders Bank of Brooklyn.
Marketing of the three-story Renaissance Revival residential and commercial building just began in early May.
The asking price is $6.5 million for the red brick, brownstone and terra-cotta stunner with enormous round-arched windows.
The building served as an emblem of genteel, pricey Brooklyn real estate for several years — because a photo of it stood at the top of widely read website Brownstoner.com’s homepage.
“It’s the building everybody loves,” Ivana Nikolic, an associate real estate broker at CORE Real Estate, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Buyers from Greenpoint and Williamsburg know it’s iconic,” she said. “That’s what’s driving demand for the property. People here are excited about it.”
She and CORE colleague Win Brown have the co-exclusive listing for 144 Franklin St. with Bedford 6 Real Estate.
A nest egg for retirement
Dr. Louis Cox, a licensed clinical psychologist, and artist Fran Cox own half the high-profile building on the corner of Franklin Street and Greenpoint Avenue.
The married 78-year-olds told the Eagle they’re selling their stake in 144 Franklin St. as a step in their retirement planning.
“We wanted to get liquid,” Louis Cox said. “It looked like a good time to sell.”
The Coxes co-own the building with real estate investor Theresa Del Pozzo in a 50-50 co-op partnership structure.
Del Pozzo is selling her half of the building, too.
The Coxes and Del Pozzo each own half the basement and half the ground-floor commercial space. The Coxes own one residential floor of 144 Franklin St. and Del Pozzo owns the other.
Would-be buyers wanted the whole enchilada
The Coxes previously put their half of 144 Franklin St. up for sale for a $2.75 million asking price.
Prospective purchasers kept saying they’d go for it if were a condo unit — or they’d prefer to buy the whole building.
“It’s hard to enter into a 50-50 co-op partnership structure,” said Brown, who handled the Coxes’ co-op listing. People don’t like the idea of being in this kind of business partnership with someone they don’t know, he explained.
Brown received purchase offers for the entire building, which he sent to Del Pozzo.
“Having offers thrown at her, unsolicited, convinced her she should sell,” Brown said.
The building appeared in movies
During the Coxes’ years as co-owners of 144 Franklin St., two movies were filmed in the building, they said.
Its ground floor was turned into a library for the 1996 film “Sleepers.”
Its third floor was used as a terrorist’s home in the 1998 film “The Siege,” which starred Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis.
Several years ago, the Coxes found out that 144 Franklin St. was being singled out in another way — when someone from Brownstoner.com contacted them to tell them a photo of the building would be used as the website’s header.
“We knew it was a special building,” Louis Cox said. “That confirmed it.”
Built to last with two-foot-thick walls
The Coxes reminisced about their early years in the building, which Del Pozzo bought for about $30,000 in 1984, said Brown, the listing agent.
Soon afterwards, the Coxes became 144 Franklin St.’s co-owners.
“We were friends with Theresa Del Pozzo’s brother,” Fran Cox said. “He mentioned that Theresa might like a partner.”
The timing was opportune for the Coxes. They’d been living in a rented loft on Crosby Street in SoHo. An investor purchased the SoHo building and bought them out of their lease.
Back then, Fran Cox was doing big paintings, and needed lots of studio space.
She currently does oil-crayon painting and writes murder mysteries in short-story form.
Before the Coxes and their three teenage kids and Del Pozzo could move into 144 Franklin St., it had to be completely renovated.
The building had been pretty much gutted, Louis Cox recalled. There was no electricity or running water.
The ground-floor banking space’s interior had been clad in beautiful, pale-orange marble — which the previous owners had torn out and left on the sidewalk, Fran Cox said.
“It was very sad,” she remembered.
Nevertheless, 144 Franklin St. had been solidly built according to 19th-century construction principles, with two-foot-thick walls and 18-inch-wide joists, she said.
A city Landmarks Preservation Commission report notes that around 1895, Mechanics and Traders Bank constructed the building that now stands at 144 Franklin St. It replaced a simpler brick building the bank initially used as its office.
The bank had purchased the site in 1867 from the Sparrow family, which did a lot of development in 19th-century Greenpoint.
Greenpoint before gentrification
In the 1980s when the Coxes moved to Greenpoint, numerous Brooklyn neighborhoods were plagued with high crime rates. But Greenpoint was known as a safe neighborhood, Louis Cox recalled.
It was a largely Polish community back then. The Coxes loved the food at the Polish restaurants and bakeries.
Practical things like grocery shopping were “a bit of a challenge,” however, Louis Cox recalled. For instance, there was only one fruit and vegetable shop in the neighborhood.
“There was nothing of the gentrification you see today,” he said.
At the end of the 1980s, when the Coxes’ kids were ready to leave home, Fran and Louis Cox moved upstate.
“We knew that we were kind of done with city living,” he said.
Del Pozzo doesn’t live at 144 Franklin St. anymore, either.
The Coxes still spend lots of time in the city. Louis Cox’s office is in Manhattan. And they visit their two daughters, who live in Brooklyn.
An apartment with 18-foot ceilings
An online listing for 144 Franklin St. says the ground floor is currently configured as two offices with 15-foot ceilings. It could be used as retail space.
There’s an apartment on the building’s second floor with three bedrooms, 1½ bathrooms and 11-foot ceilings.
An apartment on the third floor has three bedrooms, a sleep loft, two bathrooms — and 18-foot ceilings.
Both apartments currently have tenants. But when it’s sold, the building can be delivered vacant if the buyer wishes.
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