One-time Williamsburg jazz den swings onto market around $50M

Seller Brooklyn Lofts converted former Miller Grand Ballroom to rentals in 2000
By Rich Bockmann | December 11, 2015 11:38AM

Gone are the days of reefer-fueled, late-night jam sessions, with flappers and jazz cats snapping along, but things at the former Miller Grand Ballroom are still hopping.

Brooklyn Lofts, the developer who converted the former whiskey-soaked Jazz Age ballroom — famous for its raucous and secret parties — into loft apartments is putting the hulking building up for sale at an asking price of around $50 million.

The former Miller Grand Ballroom at 318 Grand Street in Williamsburg was one of the largest in the city when completed in the early 20th Century with ornate details such as glass beaded sconces, marble walls and terrazzo floors.

Architect Benjamin Finkensieper, best known for designing industrial buildings in neighborhoods like DUMBO, drew up plans for the building, which in its heyday hosted big-name acts such as the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Paul Robeson. Latin Jazz legend Tito Puente played there so often he reportedly bought an apartment across the street. The ballroom regularly played host to wild parties thrown by fraternities and secret societies.

Brooklyn Lofts owner Paul Joffe bought the property in 1997 and in 2000 converted the 45,000-square-foot building into 29 rental apartments.

The property is now on the market as a potential condo conversion. Several of the apartments, which range from 526 square feet to 2,600 square feet – have 25-foot ceilings with double rows of windows stacked atop one another.

“It’s concrete and it’s brick and it’s huge,” said Richard Helfand of Berko & Associates, who is marketing the property exclusively. “You could not replace that building at today’s costs.”

The building sat vacant for nearly 20 years before Joffe decided to renovate it. Helfand said the units are rent regulated until the property’s J-51 tax abatement expires in 2017.

The building stretches the entire block front along Havermeyer Street between Grand and South 1st streets and overbuilt beyond the current zoning, Helfand added. There are also seven retail units.