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Is ‘DoBro’ Finally Happening?

For more than a decade, Downtown Brooklyn was always about to turn a corner in terms of livability—or so developers said.

In 2007, Albee Development—a consortium of Acadia Realty Trust, Curbcut Urban Partners and Washington Square Partners—purchased the site of the former Albee Square Mall, expecting to hit the ground running on a new and exciting shopping, entertainment and residential destination. 

Then, of course, everything fell off a cliff.

“We bought the property in ’07—a defunct, failed, multilevel retail project that had tried to find success on Fulton Street for several decades with the expectation that we were going to be going great guns through ’08 and ’09,” said Acadia Chief Operating Officer Christopher Conlon. “Our project, along with many others, stalled from 2008 to 2011.”

While predictions for a more residential, leisure-oriented Downtown Brooklyn have been giddy for at least a decade, it is only now, on the heels of the recent opening of Albee Development’s project—the long-awaited City Point—and its amenities, such as the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater and the DeKalb Market food hall, that the business district’s lifestyle potential is coming to fruition.

“First come the people. Then comes the necessity retail—dry cleaners, liquor stores, candy stores. Then after that, when the critical mass is here, that’s when the last wave comes in and you get the leisure and nighttime activities,” said Brooklyn broker Timothy King, the managing partner at CPEX Real Estate Services.

That’s where DoBro appears to be in 2017 with a slew of dining and drinking options either open or in the works.

“The neighborhood went from the sort of place where, if you passed out on the sidewalk at night, they wouldn’t find you until the next day, to where it’s much more of a neighborhood,” King said.

The area’s expansion has been underway since then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council passed the Downtown Brooklyn Plan in 2004, a rezoning which, according to the city’s website, allowed for “the creation of 4.5 million square feet of new commercial office space, 800,000 square feet of retail, 1,000 units of housing, new open space and retail amenities, as well as streetscape improvements.”

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City Point in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Acadia Realty Trust

As it happened, many of the plans that came together over the next several years were put on hold due to the 2008 financial crisis.

“The rezoning was a pre-financial-crisis event,” Conlon said. “Had there not been a global financial crisis right after the rezoning, [this development] probably would have happened a lot sooner. The development world shut down with the crisis, and people couldn’t get financed. Tenants weren’t moving, and everything sort of seized up.”

But the crisis was simply the first obstacle. Once it abated and development money began freeing up, you still had a very buttoned-up, office-centered neighborhood with little residential presence or nightlife. This evolved slowly, as many developers waited for others to make the first move.

Residential was the first to push ahead. Slowly high-rise apartment buildings like The Brooklyner at 111 Lawrence Street and 388 Bridge Street and Avalon Willoughby West at 100 Willoughby Street kept rising year after year in Downtown Brooklyn and surpassing one another as the tallest building in Brooklyn, bringing thousands of residents to the area.

But catering to these residents stagnated. Conlon recalls how retailers would send representatives into the area to scout potential locations.

“They would get orders from their corporate office—‘Go find us a store in Brooklyn,’” he said. “So they would send their retail real estate experts out to Brooklyn, and they would take the subway out and walk around…[and a] lot of retailers looked and were like, ‘I don’t get it,’ and they just left. They went to Williamsburg.”

Of course, they could hardly be blamed for failing to see the potential for a vibrant social and shopping life in an area that had virtually none.

“Downtown Brooklyn has always been a very bustling place during the commercial hours—there are 100,000 office workers there every day—but after dark, when those businesses close down, it got very quiet,” said Tucker Reed, a principal at Brooklyn-based Totem Real Estate and the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership until last year.

“I remember three or four years ago went Ganso, a little Japanese ramen place on Hoyt Street, opened up, and we were like, ‘That’s a game changer’—the first neighborhood scale restaurant isn’t an iconic destination like Juniors or something. When Macy’s closed at 7 o’clock, the neighborhood was pretty deserted.”

“No business wants to take the risk until the neighborhood has changed,” said Jake Elghanayan, a senior vice president at TF Cornerstone, which recently unveiled the 25-story, 714-unit residential rental building 33 Bond at the corner of Bond Street and Atlantic Avenue and will open a 52,000-square-foot outpost of Chelsea Piers in the building in the spring of 2018. It became a catch-22.

“It’s difficult to get retailers to be the first one in, so everything takes a little longer because there’s always a nervousness about going into a new neighborhood for a retailer. So the deals we’ve had, we’ve had to try to de-risk the opportunity for the retailer, showing how the demographics and the population will change in the next few years.”

There were occasional signs of life and hope from independent operators over the years. Brooklyn Fare, the supermarket that evolved to include a four-star eatery, opened in 2009 at 200 Schermerhorn Street at Hoyt Street; the Catskills-inspired bar Livingston Manor opened at 42 Hoyt Street, by Livingston Street, in 2014. 

But the most likely catalyst for heavy activity was the progress of City Point, which opened last year at 445 Albee Square West, bringing with it an outpost of the food-and-drink-offering movie chain Alamo Drafthouse, as well as the 60,000-square-foot, 40-vendor DeKalb Market.

“People believed in the market before City Point opened, knowing it was on the horizon,” said Dan Marks, a partner at TerraCRG. “Just knowing that a project of that scale is on the way gave people a lot of confidence to build there.”

But City Point’s first salvo has been very impressive: Conlon said that the Drafthouse, which will add a beer garden to its already existing House of Wax restaurant this fall, is already No. 1 in sales among the chain’s 43 theaters nationwide.

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The House of Wax bar at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Victoria Stevens

In addition to Alamo, DeKalb Market, Trader Joe’s and Century 21, as well as other retail outlets setting up shop at City Point, the area will be getting Brooklyn’s second Apple Store at the 32-story 300 Ashland Place, a Two Trees Property on Ashland Place near Lafayette Avenue, which also houses 379 luxury rental units, and will host the new Whole Foods 365 outlet, a BAM movie theater and a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Other offerings include the 6,000-square-foot brewpub Circa Brewing Company, at 141 Lawrence Street between Willoughby and Fulton Streets, which offers beer brewed on the premises to drink along with its wood-fired pizza.

The Kimoto Rooftop Garden Lounge is now open at 216 Duffield Street between Willoughby and Fulton Streets, above the Aloft and Sheraton Hotels, with “breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty, Barclays Center and Hudson River,” according to their website, along with its Asian-inspired menu.

The Ashland offers the second New York outpost of the Gotham Market food hall with highlights like the “beer, bourbon and barbecue” joint Mason Jar, the brick-oven pizzeria Apizza Regionale and the premium chicken outlet Flip Bird. 

Inside 33 Bond, TF Cornerstone will host the second Brooklyn outlet of Devoción, which describes itself as “the only exclusively farm-to-table coffee roaster in the world.”

“They have their first location in Williamsburg,” Elghanayan said. “It’s a beautiful store that’s won lots of awards and has great Colombian coffee. We thought it was a great offering, and they’ll probably be open before the spring.”

While the proliferation of leisure could be seen as long overdue, some believe it a natural progression that’s happening right on time.

There will almost certainly be no shortage of foot traffic in the neighborhood—the residential and mixed-use developments aren’t letting up. Projects like the aforementioned 58-story, 826-unit AVA DoBro (also known as Avalon Willoughby West) at 100 Willoughby Street, from Avalon Communities; Steiner NYC’s 600-unit The Hub, at 333 Schermerhorn Street; and The Ashland at 250 Ashland Place, from The Gotham Organization, a 53-story tower with 586 rentals, have begun giving the area the density it needs to support a vibrant social and community life.

Given the area’s proximity to so many already thriving Brooklyn neighborhoods, Regina Myer, the current president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, added that the new retail offerings add to an already rich assortment of cultural offerings not far away.

“The culture has always been here,” Myer said, referring to such entities as BAM, BRIC and the Theater for a New Audience. “They’re the ones that have been making Downtown Brooklyn a great place to come and see entertainment for years. So it’s amazing now that there are great places to eat finally, how that’s really catching up.”

Given some of the new projects on the way, the area is hardly done experiencing new places to eat, drink and be merry. The mixed-use Caesura at 280 Ashland Place, being developed by the Jonathan Rose Companies at the corner of Lafayette Avenue, in addition to offering 123 rental apartments will host the Center for Fiction, the Mark Morris Dance Group and a 2,800-square-foot craft brand restaurant from the founders of ‘Wichcraft. The project is due to be completed this year.

Longtime city residents have marked the neighborhood’s growth in traditional New York ways.

“To me, a great indicator [of the neighborhood’s change] is the ability to catch a cab by Fulton Mall,” Reed said. “All of a sudden, there are cabs stopping by the corner of Willoughby Street. Before—and before Uber—you had to walk back to Fort Greene or Brooklyn Heights to find a cab… The cabs follow demand.”

What’s most exciting to those with whom Commercial Observer spoke is that the current explosion feels like the tip of the iceberg. Now that Downtown Brooklyn is massing growth and showing both a desire for, and the success of, more leisure and lifestyle-oriented outlets, the floodgates are open now for exponential growth in the years to come.

“If you took a panoramic picture of the neighborhood five years ago and laid it next to the same picture from today, people might think you were speaking about a different city. The same will hold true five years from now,” King said. “Retailers are like a herd of animals—very few retailers like to be the first guy in. But once the marketplace is established and proven, it’s an awful lot easier to get the next folks to follow.”


Source: commercial

[Video Q&A] Food Halls and Beyond With Acadia’s Christopher Conlon

Commercial Observer sits down with Acadia’s Christopher Conlon to talk Brooklyn food halls, the state of the retail market and his favorite restaurant at City Point.

Missed last month’s video? We spoke with Avison Young’s Arthur Mirante about Hudson Yards, big moves in the major brokerage firms and more. View the video here.

About Berdon LLP, Accountants and Advisors: Berdon LLP is ranked among the nation’s top CPA and advisory firms. With nearly 400 professionals, clients benefit from our comprehensive array of accounting, tax, financial, and management advisory services. Through specialized expertise and a real estate team of more than 100 professionals, we advise many of the country’s prominent real estate entities and are one of the largest Real Estate Practices in the nation. 


Source: commercial

A Big Chunk of Downtown Brooklyn—on Albee Square West—Is Finally Having Its Moment


Source: commercial

With Retail Writhing, What’s the Secret of a Successful Mall?


Source: commercial

Christopher DeCrosta Sees Apple, Tesla and J. Crew as Just the Beginning for Brooklyn

It’s hard to imagine a day when every brand isn’t in Brooklyn. It’s crazy to think that a city as big as Brooklyn doesn’t already have all of the big brands.”

So said Crown Retail Services broker Christopher DeCrosta.

The broker is a firm believer in the church of Brooklyn and has long been a high priest in the effort. He (alongside colleague Hank O’Donnell) helped J. Crew find its first Brooklyn location at 234-236 Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg in 2014. When Elon Musk’s Tesla needed a showroom, it was DeCosta who inked the deal for a space in Red Hook. And one shouldn’t forget Apple—DeCrosta had a hand in getting the tech giant its Williamsburg locale.

Brooklyn may have been a transient place even a decade ago, DeCrosta said.

“Brooklyn was always a means of servicing Manhattan,” DeCrosta, 37, said. “If you lived in Brooklyn, you went to work in Manhattan and then you went back to Brooklyn. You shopped in Manhattan. If you made a little money, you left Brooklyn.”

Not any more. Today, tenants want to be in Kings County, and DeCrosta’s job is more about education—ideal neighborhoods and buildings—and less about convincing. 

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Tesla’s building at 160 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook.

Tesla is a good case in point. “They knew they needed a place to get cars serviced,” DeCrosta said. “They needed a place to have a showroom. And they knew they wanted to be in an area that was convenient to Manhattan and that could also capture the Brooklyn market.”

They just didn’t know where in Brooklyn all these needs could be met. DeCrosta found the electric carmaker a 40,000-square-foot service and showroom at LIVWRK’s 160 Van Brunt Street between Summit and Bowne Street in March of last year.

Then DeCrosta and O’Donnell worked with Johnny Siegel of Open Realty Advisors to represent Apple and find its first Brooklyn location at 247 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, a property owned by RedSky Capital. Lee & Associates NYC represented the landlord in the 20,000-square-foot transaction. The store opened in July last year, around the same time as the Williamsburg Whole Foods across the street at 238 Bedford Avenue.

“He was instrumental, truthfully,” said Benjamin Bernstein, a principal and co-founder of developer RedSky Capital. “We had a unique asset on Bedford Avenue. We showed it to him and his team. He believed it was perfect for Apple. We had a great first meeting. He brought the national representatives. And they loved our real estate. We were lucky we had the same vision for our asset that they did.”

DeCrosta has been on something of a Williamsburg kick lately—he and O’Donnell recently represented two companies in their entrée to the borough—British skin care brand Rituals Cosmetics at 117 North 6th Street and Flywheel, a growing fitness concept, at 173 North 3rd Street, both in July 2016.

“I think he developed relationships with specific tenants that really are on the cutting edge of cool,” Bernstein said. “The brands he focuses on and chases, they are not just paying attention to Brooklyn. Their head of marketing [and] their head of design lives in Brooklyn. So he comes off as genuine. He lives in Carroll Gardens, [Brooklyn].”

It almost feels blasphemous that DeCrosta’s operations at Crown Retail are run out of Manhattan offices, where he has been since 2012 and specializes in representing retailers. He runs a team of four brokers, including O’Donnell.

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Williamsburg Apple Store. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Working in an office on the 24th floor of the GM Building at 767 Fifth Avenue between East 58th and East 59th Streets, DeCrosta was the only employee that Commercial Observer spotted without a tie, without his shirt tucked in and without dress shoes (he was wearing burnt orange loafers).

A native of New Haven, Conn., DeCrosta went to Kenyon College, a liberal arts college of roughly 1,500 students, in the small town of Gambier, Ohio. He earned an English degree and took off for New York City after graduating in 2001.

“I fell in love with Brooklyn right after 9/11,” DeCrosta said. “I had moved to Lower Manhattan-post 9/11, and because Lower Manhattan was in the process of being rebuilt and low on amenities, half of the time I went out, I would end up in Brooklyn. That was 2001 to 2002. It’s when a lot of the restaurants started popping up [and] good bars. It’s when the Brooklyn culture as we know it started.”

He moved to Brooklyn in 2005. Today, he lives with his wife Luciana Francese, a director of leasing at Acadia Realty Trust who oversees transactions at City Point for the landlord. DeCrosta and Francese first met at the annual International Council of Shopping Centers event in Las Vegas in 2012 and have been married for more than two years. They have not done deals together—except if you count the couple’s 1-year-old daughter.

DeCrosta and his wife are extremely enthusiastic cooks, and he is an avowed non-jock. (Asked if he runs or exercises, he dead-panned Kenny Powers: “I’m not trying to be the best at exercising.”)

“Our idea of a good Saturday is going to local shops—like The Meat Hook in Williamsburg, go to our local produce guys and then we cook a big meal,” DeCrosta said. “Traditional Italian stuff. And we try to incorporate new recipes.” 

“He’s really into food, and that’s one of the things that we bonded over,” said Cushman & Wakefield Executive Managing Director Steven Soutendijk, a friend of nearly a decade. Soutendijk and DeCrosta have worked on opposite sides of deals in the past, such as one for cosmetics retailer L’Occitane on the Upper West Side.

DeCrosta’s foray into real estate started shortly after graduating college and moving to New York City with just $700. He became a canvasser for Madison Retail Group, which was being run by industry veteran Virginia Pittarelli. He met Pittarelli, who is currently a principal at Crown Retail, through a mutual friend, and she hired him in June of that year.

Later in 2001, he took continuing education courses at New York University to earn his broker’s license.

“I knew he had great potential,” Pittarelli said. “He was a very bright young man. He had a wonderful work ethic. He wanted to learn and he wanted to succeed. And he did something that a lot for young people find challenging: he made it a point to learn and understand the business, because he wanted to provide the best advice to his clients. Not just for the retail estate perspective, but from a retail point of view.”

DeCrosta’s first deal came in the spring of 2002. He represented a store called Saigon East on 237 Mulberry Street in Nolita, which sold Vietnamese products, such as vases, plates, lamps and other household items.

“I’ve always been attracted to the emerging markets,” DeCrosta said. “They always seem more interesting than the more established ones.” (Back then, Nolita was nowhere close to as pricey and yuppified as it is now.)

Indeed, Brooklyn was hardly his first rodeo. The Financial District was first. He worked to bring Tiffany & Co. to FiDi in 2006, when the area was going through a transformation with new retail. The company signed a 7,700-square-foot lease at 37 Wall Street.

In January of that year, French leather goods dealer Hermès, signed a deal at 15 Broad Street.

Tiffany’s representative, the late broker Ray Carew of GCD Consultants, was a mentor to DeCrosta. Carew mentioned to DeCrosta that Tiffany may be interested in Downtown as well, although it would be a “long shot.”

At the time, DeCrosta was living Downtown and saw a vacated space near his apartment at 37 Wall Street. He showed the space to Carew, who told Tiffany and weeks later the deal was signed in June.

Tiffany was interested in having a store Downtown “post 9/11 to be part of that rebuilding there,” DeCrosta said, and to tap into population of office workers and residents living there. Plus the rents were nothing like Fifth Avenue, where the jeweler with the iconic blue box has a flagship.

“You have to remember to the rents [Downtown] at that point were $100 a foot,” DeCrosta said. “It was certainly a risk but less so than a $1,000-a-foot gamble.”  

DeCrosta left Madison Retail Group in 2011 for a stint with Thor Equities but departed from that firm the following year for a bigger role at Crown Retail, where he has been since.

One recent notable transaction was last November, DeCrosta represented Apple in a deal for its second store in Brooklyn, a 12,000-square-foot space at Two Trees Management Company’s 300 Ashland Place between Lafayette Avenue and Hanson Place in Fort Greene, as CO previously reported. (Due to nondisclosure agreements with Apple, DeCrosta could not even confirm the deal.)

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One Hanson Place.

As Apple is expanding in the borough, DeCrosta believes there are “special” spaces  planned for development that will attract other bigger retailers and brands because of the size and high-foot traffic of the neighborhoods. He counts Kushner Companies’ 85 Jay Street development site in DUMBO and RedSky Capital’s full block assemblage at Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn among those.

One such space already existing that he foresees drawing a big brand, he is currently marketing. It’s the 40,000-square-foot retail portion of One Hanson Place, a converted residential condominium that is currently Brooklyn’s tallest building.

The retail base has three levels—the lower level, ground floor and mezzanine space—and DeCrosta and O’Donnell are targeting one user.

DeCrosta is hoping for a Nike, Samsung or Google. (If Google or Samsung took the space, it would be the first Brooklyn location for either; it would be Nike’s second.) It has 60-foot ceilings on the ground floor. And it has a vault on the lower level (the building was once the headquarters of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.)

“When you walk into One Hanson Place,” DeCrosta said. “It’s an absolutely gorgeous landmarked interior. It’s a glaring hole in the market for a brand.”


Source: commercial

Alamo Drafthouse Heads to the Financial District

After announcing an outpost at The Boulevard on Staten Island earlier this month, Alamo Drafthouse is prepped to sign a deal for its third New York City cinema at 28 Liberty Street in the Financial District.

The Austin-based chain is close to inking a lease for a 40,000-square-foot, 10-screen theater in the base of Fosun Property Holdings’ landmarked tower, The New York Post reports. The 28 Liberty location will offer up to 600 seats and 20-foot ceilings. It’s expected to open in 2018 on the building’s third level below the ground floor.

Asking rent for Alamo’s space wasn’t immediately clear, but rent for the below-ground retail floors reportedly hovers around $100 per square foot, according to the Post. The theater will be the second movie house in the neighborhood that serves upscale food and drinks during films, following on the heels of iPic Theaters, which opened at South Street Seaport last fall.

Alamo opened its first New York City theater at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn last year.

Several tenants have rented space in the office portion of the building in the past year, including the New York State Attorney General’s office, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Ironshore Holdings and JLL. Hospitality mogul Danny Meyer is also partnering with Fosun to open a $30 million restaurant, bar, and event space on the top floor, the Post reported in March.

Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s Jeffrey Roseman and Ross Kaplan rep the landlord, and a spokesman for the brokerage didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Fosun purchased the 1961 office building, formerly known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza, from J.P. Morgan Chase for $725 million in 2013. The Chinese firm plans to spend $160 million renovating the 2.2-million-square-foot, 60-story property, as Commercial Observer previously reported. The revamp will add 200,000 square feet of retail to the ground through the third basement floors.


Source: commercial