East Williamsburg office renaissance continues with paper mill conversion

"Complete gut rehab" of 456 Johnson Avenue targeting creative, TAMI tenants

TRD New York /
Jan.January 08, 2016 08:00 AM

UPDATED, 1:40 p.m., April 21: The transformation of East Williamsburg and Bushwick into what developers hope will be a viable commercial and office destination for tenants continues with the conversion of a 58,000-square-foot vacant warehouse at 456 Johnson Avenue.

Sequoia Development Group, led by Brooklyn investor Israel Neiman, is gut-renovating the four-story former paper mill, which was built around 1931 and is located only a few blocks away from the Morgan Avenue subway stop on the L train.

The project, fittingly called the Paper Mill, will house 35 commercial office units upon its completion in March with a view of targeting the TAMI and creative office tenants who are increasing looking to Brooklyn for their workspace.

The Paper Mill is the “first complete gut rehab” of a commercial building for office use in The Area Surrounding The Morgan Avenue stop, according to Chris Havens of Aptsandlofts.com, whose firm is now a part of Citi Habitats and is the exclusive broker at the property.

“This product is desperately needed,” Havens told The Real Deal. “It’s really hard to find office space off the L train.” He noted that the space will cater to business owners who “live within a mile or two… the L train creative population, people who live in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Ridgewood, Greenpoint.”

“People very much take these spaces because it’s convenient for their lives,” Havens added.

The 35 office units on the second through fourth floors at 456 Johnson Avenue will span between 900 and 2,200 rentable square feet each, Havens said. Asking rents are in the upper-$40s per square foot, with conventional leases ranging between one and five years. Retail space will occupy the building’s ground floor.

Sequoia entered into a triple net lease agreement for 456 Johnson Avenue with owner Maki Realty Corp. in April, according to city property records.

The gut renovation of the brick-and-timber property, led by Red Hook-based ND Architecture & Design, includes the restoration of its original flooring and beam columns while replacing its windows, ceilings and elevator — as well as the electric, plumbing and HVAC systems.

“What these guys [Sequoia] are doing is they’re going the extra mile,” he added, citing the developer’s background in mostly residential projects “Brick walls that we’ve cleaned up to some degree, but you don’t want to make them too clean and slick. [Tenants] just want space that looks authentic.”

Like 456 Johnson Avenue, a number of recent projects have looked to transform the East Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods into a commercial office destination for tech and creative tenants.

Lincoln Property Group is eyeing rents around $50 per square foot at a 100,000-square-foot former factory at 455 Jefferson Street, while Brooklyn developer Toby Moskovits’ “Bushwick Generator” at 215 Moore Street will span 75,000 square feet across five interconnected warehouses.

Real estate investment firm Savanna, meanwhile, has teamed with Daren Hornig’s Hornig Capital Partners on a 160,000-square-foot office and retail conversion of the former Schlitz Brewery at 95 Evergreen Avenue.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the size of the property at 456 Johnson Avenue as 55,000 square feet; the property is 58,000 square feet. It also incorrectly stated that Sequoia Development Group, which is leasing the property from owner Maki Realty Corp., held “an option to purchase the building outright.” There is no such purchase option, according to Maki.

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