The Real Deal New York

Israeli investors buy W’burg loft building 475 Kent for $56M

Buyers plan upgrades at longtime artist hub with pasta, matzoh factory past
By Mark Maurer | Twitter_logo_blue copy February 09, 2017 03:00PM

475 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg

A South Williamsburg pasta factory-turned-artist haven that nearly exploded in the late 2000s has sold for the first time in more than 30 years.

Nachman Brach sold the 11-story, 150,600-square-foot loft building at 475 Kent Avenue to a group of Israeli investors for $56 million, sources told The Real Deal.

The buyer is a group led by Israel-based investment firm Gaia Investment Corp., led by Shlomo Meichor and Assi Arev. The firm, which is not particularly active in the city, is planning to add a ground-floor retail component as part of an upgrade to make the building more “high-end,” said a source familiar with the deal.

Gaia Investment Corp. appears to have no relation to Danny Fishman’s Midtown-based development firm Gaia Real Estate.

The 103-unit, block-long property is best known for a 2008 incident in which about 150 tenants were temporarily evicted after fire officials found that the illegal matzo bakery that Brach was operating in the basement could explode. Then, in 2011, several city agencies raided the property looking for evidence of illegal conversions and safety issues, as a result of the removal of matzo wheat that had been deemed hazardous.

Brach and partners have owned the building since 1982, according to property records. In the 1990s, the building became home to a growing community of artists, more than 100 of whom continue to run their businesses out of the studios there. The 2010 loft law allowed tenants of this building, among others, to legally reside in an industrial space. In recent years, Bill Murray briefly lived there while filming the movie “St. Vincent,” as did the late photojournalist Tim Hetherington.

For years, residents expressed concern over Brach’s potential plans to convert the lofts to condominiums. Sources said the new owners will likely keep the apartments as rentals.

Rents are as high as $5,000 per month at the building, the New York Times reported in 2014, with individual bedrooms renting for as much as $1,500 per month. The building is located near South 11th Street, along the waterfront.

The deal, which sources said closed last week, came out to about $372 per square foot.

Lawyer Bernard Shafran represented Brach, and Steven Holm represented Gaia. The lawyers and the seller declined to comment. The buyer could not be reached. It was not clear if brokers were involved.