WILLIAMSBURG WILL SHIMMER EVEN BRIGHTER THIS SUMMER WHEN THE BOROUGH’S FIRST GROUND UP SPECULATIVE COMMERCIAL BUILDING IN 50 YEARS RISES FROM THE LOT AT 25 KENT
BY DAVID PORTER
Situated between McCarren Park and soon to be expanded Bushwick Inlet Park is set to be a Wired Score Certified Platinum and LEED Gold targeted building one that offers its commercial tenants singular and unobstructed views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline. Construction began on 25 Kent in 2016 and will be completed by summer of this year. Once finished, the property will occupy an entire city block.
The development is co-owned by Rubenstein Partners and Heritage Equity Partners. The former is an investment advisor and fund manager for a series of private equity funds focused on office investments throughout the U.S., the latter is an investment banking firm. 25 Kent was designed by HWKN (Hollwich Kushner), a Whitehall Street company famed for projects like “Wendy” (a movable art/architecture installation, the blue spiky arms of which actually clean the air, commissioned by the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program in 2012), and the Journal Squared project underway in Jersey City, a trio of towers adjacent to the Journal Square PATH Station and one of the first large scale developments in the neighborhood in decades. The design development architect, Gensler, is one of the world’s preeminent interior design firms, thanks to landmark projects such as adidas NYC, L’Oréal’s 10 story U.S. headquarters at Hudson Yards, and Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.
“A pedestrian avenue runs through 25 Kent, doubling frontage, opening the building to its context, and creating a vibrant social core,” reads a HWKN project description, “while red brick and factory sized windows reference Williamsburg’s architectural history. The firm designed each floor of the building to be adaptable to the specific needs of each tenant: smaller companies can lease subdivisions of a floor and benefit from cross pollination, while larger operations can occupy a full floor to create cohesive work environments.” There will also be retail and restaurant space, as well as manufacturing square footage (the latter typically too cost prohibitive to create in Manhattan). Both the practical and metaphorical goal, HWKN added, is to “bring Silicon Valley to Williamsburg.”
A number of potential tenants have already expressed interest, including content and creative firms and manufacturing concerns.
“The key to this project is the scale, and that there are so many different uses that combine to create an ecosystem,” said Jeff Fronek, Vice President and Director of Investments at Rubenstein Partners, adding that Williamsburg is a stellar location for this type of development because of its direct connectivity to Manhattan (one stop on the L train from the Bedford Avenue/North 7th Street Station to 1st and 14th Streets) and neighborhood feel. For established companies and startups alike, rent is cheaper. For Brooklynites, there’s the draw of a shorter commute.
Fronek believes 25 Kent is unique among developments in Brooklyn, as no other project, he said, combines brand new, Class A space with such proximity and access to Manhattan along with such a comprehensive menu of amenities. Everything about the development, he explained, is new: the market, the construction, and the concept.
“We cite buildings in Manhattan that seemed crazy at the time, such as 51 Astor Place,” he said. “Minskoff Equities was dismissed early on for that project, and now 51 Astor is one of the marquee buildings in Midtown South. It’s headquarters for IBM’s Watson Group division.”
25 Kent certainly has enviable siting, including close proximity to the Wythe Hotel (a boutique 70 room accommodation housed in a converted factory), McCarren Park, and two of New York’s best loved live music venues, Brooklyn Bowl and the Music Hall of Williamsburg. And Brooklyn EXPO Center is just blocks away. The area also abounds with bars, cafés, restaurants, and shopping. Rubenstein Partners and Heritage Equity Partners, Fronek said, are bullish on Williamsburg, and 25 Kent is just the beginning.
“Rubenstein’s belief in the local market is perhaps best conveyed by our plans for the future,” he explained. “We are, for example, partnering with ACME Smoked Fish Corp., which was founded in Brooklyn in 1905, to construct an expansion of its headquarters, as well as additional office space about two blocks from 25 Kent.”
There’s also commercial historical resonance to the enterprise; Williamsburg was the birthplace of some of America’s best known companies, including Pfizer, Standard Oil (which began here as Astral Oil), Corning Ware (formerly Brooklyn Flint Glass Works), Domino Sugar, and D. Appleton & Company, U.S. publishers of Alice in Wonderland and e Origin of Species.
The driving idea is to develop an office building that also functions as an urban campus, one that brings together established tech entrepreneurs and innovative startups to share a collaborative 21st century workspace.
In the wake of Amazon’s decision to shelve build plans for a vast corporate campus in Long Island City, 25 Kent seems well timed, in that it has the capacity to draw both a new generation of blue chip companies and small scale enterprises, in an environment arguably better integrated into the city landscape, literally and spiritually.
25 Kent Avenue / twentyfivekent.com