Explore Williamsburg’s new office and industrial building, home to Winter Smorgasburg
Neighboring hotels are nifty, too.
Real estate nerds go so they can see the building where these tandem weekend events are held.
That’s why I was in Williamsburg on Saturday, up on the eighth floor of 25 Kent Ave. Of course, I stood in line for pork buns from Mao’s Bao and bought an ice cream cone from Bona Bona, which was topped with Italian meringue the vendor toasted with a blow torch.
But the main reason I was there was to check out the vast, high-ceilinged top floor of the job-generating office and industrial building at 25 Kent Ave. I also wanted the opportunity to see the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, the East River, neighboring Greenpoint and the streets of Williamsburg from its floor-to-ceiling windows.
One of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea’s past winter locations was the jaw-dropping banking hall at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Clocktower in Fort Greene, which is arguably Brooklyn’s most famous building. It was quite an experience to see the banking hall, which is an interior landmark — something that’s rare in Brooklyn.
Brand new 25 Kent Ave., where Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea are now held, is also a wonderful building in completely different ways.
It belongs to Toby Moskovits’s development firm Heritage Equity Partners and real estate investor Rubenstein Partners. It occupies the entire block bounded by Kent Avenue, North 12th Street, Wythe Avenue and North 13th Street.
If you’re planning to attend Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, which run through March 29, the building entrance you’re looking for is on North 12th Street.
There are a number of noteworthy buildings on Wythe Avenue. I’ll show you some of the others later. First I want to focus on what’s important about 25 Kent Ave.:
- It was the first new-from-the-ground-up office building to be constructed on spec (meaning with no tenants lined up beforehand) in Brooklyn in four decades.
- The 500,000-square-foot building was designed to appeal to small, medium-sized and large tech, creative and “maker” tenants — with 87,000 square feet of space designated solely for industrial uses.
Take the G train
On the glass walls by the entrance doors to 25 Kent Ave.’s two lobbies, a painted message reminds everybody the property is legally obligated to have manufacturing tenants. “This business is subject to Industrial Business Incentive Area regulations which require a minimum amount of space to be provided for specific industrial uses,” the message says.
There are two lobbies because the Kent Avenue building is actually two separate brick and glass buildings with a glass-clad connector linking its upper floors. Beneath the connector, there’s a breezeway, which is like a pedestrian-only street.
I should pause my narrative about 25 Kent Ave. for a moment to mention that if you don’t live within walking distance of the property, you can get there by taking the G train to its Nassau Avenue stop, which is just a few blocks away.
I should also mention that if you want to get a good look at 25 Kent Ave.’s exterior, you should go to Vale Park. This publicly accessible green space is located on the roof of a low-rise retail building that’s part of The William Vale. I’ll tell you more about this hotel a bit later.
Three generations of W’burg entrepreneurs
I first heard Moskovits, who is Heritage Equity Partners’ CEO, speak about her development plans for the Kent Avenue site at a real estate roundtable at the Brooklyn Historical Society in November 2013.
At a press briefing in February 2016, she told reporters she wanted the building to provide much-needed growth space for entrepreneurs in Williamsburg, where her family had done business for three generations.
Her immigrant grandfather had owned a business in the neighborhood and her father’s factory had been located there, she said. And her real estate firm’s office was located in Williamsburg.
An anchor tenant
In December, a clothing maker and retailer named Kith signed on as 25 Kent Ave.’s anchor tenant. The company is leasing 57,679 square feet of manufacturing space, which is about two-thirds of the building’s total manufacturing space.
“Creating a makerspace in Williamsburg embodies the ideals we hold as a brand that include creating inclusive and innovative experiences in new exciting surroundings,” Kith Founder Ronnie Fieg said in a joint announcement about the lease with building co-owner Rubenstein Partners.
The amount of rent Kith is paying was not disclosed. The company is relocating from Soho.
Another interesting industrial tenant has also signed a lease. Randolph Beer rented more than 12,000 square feet, some of it manufacturing space, for a restaurant, bar and brewery, Eater reported in February. The brewer will put its beer in cans for the first time.
An art exhibition called “A Romantic Comedy” is on display on the ground floor of 25 Kent Ave. through March 31. It features more than 50 works by emerging artists, curated by Sophia Sobers and Steven Pestana.
The exhibit’s themes are “courtship, domesticity and the workplace — what society presents to the world versus what is hidden,” an online posting about it says.
The exhibition is at 25 Kent Ave. thanks to a business called Wallplay, which is programming and operating vacant retail and office space at 25 Kent Ave. until long-term tenants move into it.
Welcome to The William Vale
After your visit to 25 Kent Ave., you’ll want to see other properties on Wythe Avenue. A good place to start is the eye-catching hotel called The William Vale (yes, they capitalize the “T”), which is across the street from 25 Kent Ave.
Vale Park is part of the hotel complex.
Zelig Weiss’s Riverside Developers built The William Vale, whose address is 111 North 12th St. The architecture firm that designed it was Albo Liberis. The 21-story building’s lower floors look like they’re standing on stilts.
I took a hard-hat tour of the building in 2015 with my colleague Rob Abruzzese, who snapped wonderful photos. Mordy Steinfeld, Riverside’s director of operations and development, told us all 183 guest rooms would have balconies.
In the 19th century, a man named William Vale owned the land where the hotel now stands. A branding firm hired by Riverside saw Vale’s name on an old map. That’s how the hotel got its name.
The William Vale opened in September 2016. Its rooftop bar, which is called Westlight, has stellar views of the Manhattan skyline at sunset. I took pictures there in February 2017.
Two Trees was first out of the gate
The William Vale is one of four glam hotels on a short span of Wythe Avenue. The second one I’m going to tell you about is the Wythe Hotel.
This hotel, which is located at 80 Wythe Ave. on the corner of North 11th Street, was the first of the four to open back in 2012.
Two Trees Management, the Walentas family’s company, created the Wythe Hotel by adding modern floors to the top of an eye-catching factory called the Weidmann Cooperage, which is more than a century old. Distinguished architect of yesteryear Theobald Engelhardt designed the industrial building.
The 70-room hotel was one of the winners of the 2013 Building Brooklyn Awards, which are given out annually by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
A bar in a giant water tank
The third luxe lodging property here is the Williamsburg Hotel, which is at 96 Wythe Ave. on the corner of North 10th Street. Heritage Equity Partners built it. Michaelis Boyd Studio designed it.
Shortly after the eight-story, 147-room hotel opened in 2017, I slipped in one afternoon and ordered high tea in the lobby. It was great fun.
A visit to the hotel’s rooftop bar is on my to-do list. It’s called the Water Tower because it’s a giant replica of a cylindrical wooden water tank.
Rooftop water tanks are a beloved element of New York City’s built environment. They’re used to boost buildings’ water pressure.
Rosenwach Tank Co., a water-tower maker founded in the 1860s, owned property on the opposite side of Wythe Avenue from the Williamsburg Hotel. From 1924 to 2012, Rosenwach operated a wood mill at 87 North 9th St.
The company sold the property for $10 million in 2012, city Finance Department records indicate.
The Rosenwach wood-mill site is relevant to this story because that’s where the fourth Wythe Avenue hotel was built. This 175-room hotel is the Hoxton, whose address is 97 Wythe Ave. It opened in 2018.
The Hoxton is an upscale British hotel chain.
The buyer of Rosenwach’s property sold it to London-based developer Ennismore, which built the hotel.
Hot sauce sommeliers
If you step into the Hoxton’s lobby, where people are hanging out on cushiony couches and armchairs, you might end your Wythe Avenue walk and stay so long you’ll wind up ordering dinner.
Those of you who continue strolling will see old fashioned brick rowhouses and pass a shop called Heatonist at 121 Wythe Ave. that sells hot sauces made in small batches. The store has a tasting room and employs experts called “hot sauce sommeliers,” its website says.
Just off the corner of Wythe Avenue and North 7th Street, Shelter Pizza has an eye-catching corrugated metal facade with a gigantic American flag painted on it and windows that reflect neighboring buildings.
On the corner of Wythe Avenue and North 6th Street, a mammoth mural on the brick facade of National Sawdust’s building will get your attention. This is a nonprofit music performance venue and recording studio that’s devoted to building audiences for classical and new music. The century-old property at 80 North 6th St. was a sawdust factory, the venue’s Facebook page says.
On the waterfront
At this point on my Wythe Avenue stroll, shadows were lengthening and it was getting hard to take photos.
I turned down North 5th Street and headed to the East River shoreline so I could walk around the publicly accessible piers and catch the NYC Ferry, whose North Williamsburg dock is located there.
One of the most photogenic things on the piers is a stainless steel pipe and mesh sculpture called “Crescendo” designed by artist Mark Gibian.
Later, on my ferry ride down to DUMBO, I got a good look at Two Trees’ Domino Sugar Refinery shoreline development.
The gantry cranes in Domino Park caught my eye.
The white, precast concrete facade of Domino’s new combination office and residential property glowed in the late-afternoon sun. COOKFOX Architects designed One South First, as it’s called because its address is 1 South First St. (Readers with long memories will recall that when its construction first got underway, the building was referred to by an alternate address, 260 Kent Ave.)
The residential portion of One South First is 45 stories tall and has 332 rental apartments. Asking rents for currently available units range from $3,392 per month for a studio to $6,577 per month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, the property’s website says.
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Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s weekly column on Brooklyn’s built environment. Whether it’s old as Abraham Lincoln or so new it hasn’t topped out yet, if a building is eye-catching, Eye will show it to you. Click here to read about some of my favorites — for instance, the individual landmarks that are scattered around Williamsburg.
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