Apple eyes BAM South, Williamsburg for first BK store: Sources

From left: David Walentas, TEN Arquitectos rendering of 286 Ashland Pl., rendering of 247 Bedford Ave. and Peter Braus
From left: David Walentas, TEN Arquitectos rendering of 286 Ashland Pl., rendering of 247 Bedford Ave. and Peter Braus

The high-tech retailer Apple is taking a close look at two locations in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene and Williamsburg neighborhoods in its quest to open its first store in the borough, several sources said.

The location of the popular technology company’s Brooklyn debut has been a source of intrigue for years. As far back as 2008, brokers were speculating the company would open its first store in sites including City Point, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, the Municipal Building or at the former Salvation Army location in Williamsburg at 176 Bedford Avenue. None of that came to pass.

Now, the firm has taken a close look at Two Trees Management’s planned 381-unit rental project known as BAM South at 286 Ashland Place, in Fort Greene, two blocks from the Barclays Center, two sources said.

Meanwhile, two additional sources disputed that information, and said in fact the firm was looking closely at 247 Bedford Avenue, in Williamsburg. RedSky Capital and Joel Schreiber’s Waterbridge Capital purchased the building in 2012 for $66 million. It is across the street from a future Whole Foods location.

Neither Apple nor the brokerage that represents it, Dallas-based Open Realty Advisors, responded to a request for comment. David Walentas, a principal at Two Trees declined to comment. A person with knowledge of BAM South said that while Two Trees reached out to Apple years ago, and they are in contact with the retailer’s local representative, it has been months since their last communication, and “nothing is going on.” Peter Braus, a managing principal with Lee & Associates NYC, which is representing 247 Bedford, would not comment on who his firm is — or is not — negotiating with.

“We would love to have Apple, but at the same time we are negotiating with lots of tenants who would be great for the project and great for Williamsburg,” Braus said. There was speculation that J. Crew would move to that building, but the clothing retailer did not, and instead inked a deal for 151 Court Street in Cobble Hill.

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Apple currently has five Manhattan stores: its first opened at 103 Prince Street in Soho in 2002, and its flagship at the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue opened in 2006. Apple’s only New York City store outside of Manhattan is in General Growth Properties’ Staten Island Mall. The store opened in 2005.

Some say Walentas’ site would be a natural fit for the retailer’s first Brooklyn store; with a high-profile, glass-walled facade, it would project the modern look of the Fifth Avenue location. An early rending by the project’s architect TEN Arquitectos even uses the Apple logo.

In addition, Two Trees has a long track record for bringing major retailers to Brooklyn, including Barneys Co-op, West Elm and Urban Outfitters.

Meanwhile, the Bedford Avenue site, a brick loft-style building built in 1930, more closely resembles Apple’s first store in Soho, constructed at about the same time. The Williamsburg building has about 15,000 square feet available on the ground floor fronting Bedford Avenue, with an asking rent of $250 per foot, and additional selling space available on a lower level for $50 per foot, Braus said. The landlord has inked deals in the building at North 4th Street with restaurants Parm and Umami Burger and is near a deal with Sweetgreen, Braus said.

Asher Abehsera, CEO of the Midtown-based development firm LIVWRK, who is not involved with either project, believed the Fort Greene site was a natural fit, pointing to the modern look and high-profile location.

“If you are Apple and you want to come to Brooklyn, you need to do something significant. You need your first flagship to be a ‘wow’ space,” Abehsera said.

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