Brooklyn Heights

New film studio unveiled at former Watchtower complex

May 23, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
The owners of 30 Columbia Heights have decided to replace the iconic Watchtower sign with a “Welcome” sign — for now. Rendering courtesy of CIM Group/LIVWRK
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS – Developer CIM Group on Monday unveiled a new film production studio, Panorama Brooklyn, located in the former Watchtower headquarters at the foot of Columbia Heights. A press release from CIM says that the new studio offers 90,000 square feet of studio and production space, as well as a wide array of natural backdrops, such as buildings from the ‘30s and ‘40s, rooftop gardens and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. The brand-new building is also offering movie-makers the option of renting out additional floors – at least, until other tenants occupy the space.

The five-building complex was purchased from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2016 by CIM, LIVWRK and Kushner Companies, although Kushner sold its stake in the venture shortly after former head Jared Kushner stepped down to join former President Trump, his father-in-law, in the White House. Renovations on the buildings, originally owned by pharmaceutical company Squibb, converted them from largely closed-off warehouse and work spaces into bright, open floors with large windows; and were nearly complete in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic made filling retail and office space a challenge for landlords. The studio is positioned to be an anchor of CIM’s plans to turn the currently vacant development into “a hub of creativity and collaboration utilizing its complex of five interconnected buildings to become an engaging vertical-village.”

The buildings are best known for their iconic red-lettered sign and clock-slash-thermometer, visible for decades from north Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and the two bridges; CIM in 2018 had to face off against the city Buildings Department to be able to erect a new message of “WELCOME” (replacing the “WATCHTOWER” sign, which replaced the even earlier “SQUIBB”), after the Buildings Department claimed that the original installation of the sign’s framework by Squibb in 1961 had been done illegally. Lawyers for the developers declared victory after discovering old documents that proved otherwise, according to 6sqft.

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