Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Historic designation can be profitable (despite rumors to the contrary)

From the Daily News:

Designed in 1913 by Cass Gilbert, the architect of Manhattan’s famous Woolworth Building and the man known as the world’s first skyscraper builder, 184 Kent was the waterfront warehouse for Austin, Nichols & Co., then the United States’ largest grocer and distributor of Wild Turkey bourbon. They moved to Williamsburg from the lower East Side for waterfront access to boats delivering and shipping products.

The six-story 425,000-square-foot building was one of the soundest warehouses ever built. Gilbert designed more ornate courthouses and treasury buildings of the same material, but 184 Kent was a pared-down version of its stately counterparts. Its integrity is in its simplicity.

It isn’t just history that makes this project one of the city’s most intriguing rentals in recent memory. The construction, landmark issue and marketing strategy were methodically thought out to ensure this building got as much care as possible.

After some early controversy caused by the previous owners, who evicted long-term tenants and lobbied the city council to have the New York City Landmark Commission’s decision to protect the building overturned (owners wanted to build a seven-story glass box on top for a condominium conversion), Halpern’s group bought out the owners and secured 184 Kent as a rental. Immediately, JMH went through a nine-month process of having the building federally landmarked, allowing him tax credits on the rehab.

“We would not have been able to do this project economically without the landmark approval,” he says. “It meant saving us 25 cents for every dollar spent on refurbishing.”

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