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Brooklyn Watchtower properties valued at over $1 billion

    M Dogpatch posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:24:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 2923 of 3985
    Joined 12/26/2000

    from the Brooklyn Heights Blog: http://brooklynheightsblog.com/archives/20524

    The Real Deal looks at the Watchtower’s Brooklyn Heights real estate holdings and speculates how much the organization could make once it decides to put its remaining properties here on the market:

    The Real Deal: Over the next decades, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, as it is officially known, bought up some incredibly valuable real estate as its operation expanded. Today, the organization’s portfolio totals 25 Brooklyn properties — brownstones, Beaux Arts multifamilies, modern high-rises and parking lots — that are said to be worth at least $1 billion.

    But the Heights’ largest landlord may soon be its biggest property seller. Continuing a trend that started in 2004, when the Witnesses sold a warehouse that became the condo One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the group has been steadily downsizing in order to relocate upstate.

    Indeed, the Witnesses have built a new printing plant in Wallkill in upstate New York, and an educational center across the river in Patterson. It’s also planning an $11.5 million facility in Warwick. If that proposal gets a green light and market conditions improve, a slew of properties in Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo could soon change hands.

    Check out the full-page visual of their properties! http://www.scribd.com/doc/33969467/44-45

    44-45

    Randy

    straightshooter posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:31:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 676 of 1920
    Joined 6/30/2009

    The WTS made some good investments over the years. With the contributions they receive and the property they own, I do not think that the WTS will collapse any day soon.

    Of course wise investments do not mean that they are doing God's will anymore than the man in Jesus' illustration who had many storehouses and decided to build more.

    M sir82 posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:32:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 4448 of 8751
    Joined 5/17/2005

    Well that oughta solve the cash flow problems for a while!

    Build a new place for $11 million, sell existing propertioes for $1 billion.

    I think even Bethel could find a way to make $990 million in profit stretch for a few decades.

    F blondie posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:48:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 30316 of 37162
    Joined 5/28/2001

    Of course, the US is currently in a commercial real estate slump....that's why they are "renting" out rooms at the Bossert.

    I don't count it as liquid cash until they sell.

    M Dogpatch posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:13:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 2924 of 3985
    Joined 12/26/2000

    from:

    A heavenly portfolio

    Jehovah's Witnesses mull more Brooklyn divestments July 01, 2010 07:00AM By C.J. Hughes

    The Jehovah's Witnesses, famous for their door-to-door proselytizing, were originally based outside Pittsburgh, where founder Charles Taze Russell handed out his first magazines in 1879.

    But Russell reasoned that the organization could reach far more people, and ship literature overseas more easily, if it were by a busy port. So, in 1909, he moved the operation to Brooklyn Heights.
    Over the next decades, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, as it is officially known, bought up some incredibly valuable real estate as its operation expanded. Today, the organization's portfolio totals 25 Brooklyn properties -- brownstones, Beaux Arts multifamilies, modern high-rises and parking lots -- that are said to be worth at least $1 billion. But the Heights' largest landlord may soon be its biggest property seller. Continuing a trend that started in 2004, when the Witnesses sold a warehouse that became the condo One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the group has been steadily downsizing in order to relocate upstate. Indeed, the Witnesses have built a new printing plant in Wallkill in upstate New York, and an educational center across the river in Patterson. It's also planning an $11.5 million facility in Warwick. If that proposal gets a green light and market conditions improve, a slew of properties in Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo could soon change hands. While none of the properties on the below list have been marked for sale, many are slated to be put on the market once economic conditions improve, so they're worth keeping an eye on (see images of the properties in PDF below). Hotel Bossert, 98 Montague StreetArguably the Witnesses' premier property, this 14-story, 224-room Renaissance Revival confection, with a marble lobby and coffered ceilings, was once home to a few of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who also partied in its upper-floor restaurant.

    Leased by the Witnesses in 1983, and purchased soon after, the 190,000-square-foot building was almost sold in 2008 for $100 million to RAL Companies, which planned to redevelop it as a dorm, according to news reports.
    "They've really done just an impeccable job of restoring it," said Sandra Dowling, principal of Brooklyn Heights Real Estate, who has never sold a building on the Witnesses' behalf, but is familiar with many of their properties. And because the Bossert now sits just blocks from the recently opened Brooklyn Bridge Park, "it will be very interesting to see where this one goes once the market comes back," Dowling said. 85 Jay Street Not all the Witnesses' holdings are buildings, like this parking lot in Dumbo next to a large support structure for the Brooklyn Bridge. Initially, the three-acre parcel was considered for the printing plant that ended up in Wallkill, but it was too small.

    Still, "you're looking at 880,000 zoning square feet, and they could all be residential feet," said Richard Devine, a Witnesses spokesman. That could translate into about 800 roomy one-bedrooms.
    161, 165 and 183 Columbia HeightsThese three properties, which sit on a tree-lined street that serves as the spine of the Witnesses' organization, would likely hit the market as a block. They include a five-story brick Greek Revival apartment building (No. 161), a Gothic Revival carriage house (No. 165), and a seven-story Beaux Arts building detailed with garlands (No. 183). They were marketed together for a possible auction in 2007, but were never sold. And the asking price was never made public.

    In fact, during the boom, the Witnesses preferred to auction off their properties, believing that would yield higher prices. "The market was so unpredictable during that time, we found it better to not put a ceiling on price," said Devine, who nevertheless added that his group may use a broker this go-around.
    117 Adams StreetThe five yellow-hued concrete buildings here, split down the middle by Prospect Street in Downtown Brooklyn, were built by the Witnesses starting in 1927. Until 2004, this was the site of the Witnesses' printing plant. Today the buildings, which have a combined 861,000 square feet, function as a warehouse.

    25-30 Columbia Heights
    This L-shaped, 644,000-square-foot complex, which connects via a sky bridge over Columbia Heights, is the heart and soul of the Watchtower organization, containing all its administrative offices. It's perhaps best known, though, for its glowing red sign, which also dispenses the time and temperature to Manhattanites.

    Built by Squibb Pharmaceuticals in the 1920s, these concrete structures were the drug company's main manufacturing plant until the 1960s, when the Witnesses bought them. They also lie outside Brooklyn Heights' restrictive landmark district.
    Because the huge structures belong to a religious group, they currently aren't generating tax revenue, so "it would be great for the city to have them back," Dowling said. 105 Willow StreetThis five-unit mid-block brownstone was marketed briefly in 2007, but pulled when there was little interest in its $4.95 million price, said Devine, who noted that the Witnesses plan to shop it around again once the market improves.

    34 Orange Street
    Another property that was briefly listed, but then pulled as the housing market turned, this four-story redbrick row house with an angled façade is also slated for an encore. The property, which the Witnesses have owned since the 1940s, would likely be marketed as a single-family home.

    And it's likely to be in great shape. The Witnesses win universal praise for their renovation and preservation skills. "Their floors were clean enough to eat off of" at 360 Furman Street, which became One Brooklyn Bridge Park, said Highlyann Krasnow, a broker who sells there.
    25 Clark StreetA fanciful 16-story structure with a stone base and Moorish-style towers, this was once the Leverich Towers Hotel, one of several former residence hotels from the 1920s that the Witnesses later bought. Its 225 units were upgraded in a 1998 gut renovation.

    The building resembles the former Standish Arms Hotel at 169 Columbia Heights, which was sold in 2007 to Taurus Investment Holdings for $50 million. It's now a 100-unit rental where studios start at $1,900.
    Pat McGrath, a Taurus principal, was circumspect about whether Taurus might snap up other Witness buildings, but he likes the area. "The Heights was always a nice place to live," McGrath said, but with the new park and Governors Island ferry stops, "it's become an awesome place to live." 107 Columbia HeightsThis 11-story building is one of the few residences the group actually built, in 1959. Devine, who lived here for a six-month stretch in 1979, also calls it home today. Never marketed, the 163-apartment high-rise, with a street-level garden, was renovated in 2004, which suggests it could command a high price, said Joseph Di fiore, manager of Arlene Realty of Carroll Gardens.

    Di fiore said a parcel he listed for sale in Park Slope, zoned for a 106-unit condo, is asking $14 million, "and it's just a lot and plans," he said. "This is a more prestigious address."
    124 Columbia HeightsOne of the first buildings that the Witnesses constructed in Brooklyn, this apartment building went up in three sections: in 1911, 1927 and 1949, though its redbrick façade is distinctly postwar. It contains 224 studios. In exchange for helping run the organization, members receive room, board, medical care and a "small reimbursement," said Devine, who adds that the average stay is 10 years.

    119 Columbia Heights
    Somewhat at odds with the Heights' antique streetscapes is this clearly modernistic dark-brick corner building from 1969, which was also built by the Witnesses and designed by architect Ulrich Franzen. Today it contains apartments and a library.

    97 Columbia Heights
    Facing the neighborhood's promenade and the Lower Manhattan skyline is this brick and glass high-rise, which the Witnesses purchased in its construction phase, in 1986. It has 110 studios and one-bedrooms. The organization enjoyed a growth spurt in the 1980s, when many of its New York properties were acquired, even though it had incorrectly predicted that the world would end in 1975.

    173, 177 and 185 Front Street
    Alone, these Dumbo parking lots are probably too small for buildings, but if combined with adjacent parcels, they could be large enough to develop.

    90 Sands Street
    More of a Downtown Brooklyn property, this high-rise built by the Witnesses in 1993 is the group's largest residence, with 501 apartments. The 30-story building, which has a plain façade, is also connected by sky bridge to the Adams Street complex.

    M DaCheech posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:42:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 3718 of 6646
    Joined 5/13/2004

    these guys are smart.

    why settle for .85billion when they can rent and sell when the conditions are right!

    I would not rent one of their rooms, even if it was 1/3 the price of a hotel. I have vowed not to give them another penny in my life

    M nicolaou posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:12:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 4007 of 4771
    Joined 2/12/2001

    You know, I've never been comfortable with the oft repeated mantra that the WT will only fall when the money dries up. Frankly, if that situation ever arose, I can see many diehard dubs strengthening their loyalty even more! I'm sure a cash strapped WT could survive in some fashion.

    However, there's no reason why we might not live to see a very wealthy WT lose the bulk of it's membership. It's not about the money, it's about the minds and hearts of millions of ordinary people.

    I would be happy to see the Watchtower society and it's leaders become very, very rich but ever isolated, lonely and irrelevant.

    carla posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:14:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 5721 of 7052
    Joined 4/23/2005

    They are planning on building in the near future? then evidently they are not planning on the end being right around the corner! rank and file did not get the memo though.

    M OnTheWayOut posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:22:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 11400 of 18160
    Joined 9/8/2006

    One huge advantage to being a non-profit religion: You can hold your property until the slump goes away (unless you really blunder in your business and need the cash) because you don't pay taxes and you can get some dubs to maintain the property for free- well.... maybe for room and board.

    Soldier77 posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:24:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 533 of 1651
    Joined 4/30/2010

    WTS practicing slave labor. Aren't there laws against this sort of thing? Oh yeah, the rank and file numbnuts "volunteered".... nvm, slave away lemmings!

    WuzLovesDubs posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 21:58:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 1127 of 1151
    Joined 7/28/2003

    What good are all those buildings if there are no people in them? What good are thousands of empty kingdom halls and printing presses that produce nothing but junk mail?

    Buildings do not a religion make.

    Soldier77 posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 22:07:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 539 of 1651
    Joined 4/30/2010

    You know the city officials are just sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for this land to go for sale, they are seeing all the future tax $$$ they can be raking in.

    book posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 23:28:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 10 of 14
    Joined 3/21/2010

    Brooklyn Watchtower properties may have to be sold like BP, if facing a deluge of lawsuits.

    metatron posted Wed, 21 Jul 2010 23:41:00 GMT(7/21/2010)

    Post 5188 of 7290
    Joined 4/7/2001

    I read repeatedly things like - 'tried to sell but withdrew until market gets better'. The market might not ever get better.

    Can they sell the factories as housing? Can Brooklyn absorb that many upscale people?

    Keep in mind that a few Catholic -level lawsuits could easily wipe out all this value. More than that, remember that all this lovely real estate represents 130 years of human suffering from persistent, entrenched fraud - The kid who sent pennies, the old sister who sent in her SS check, the long term Bethelites who got thrown in the street because the Watchtower wanted to save more money.

    Too bad we can't burn them all down and sew the ground with salt like the Romans used to do.

    metatron

    WTWizard posted Thu, 22 Jul 2010 14:22:00 GMT(7/22/2010)

    Post 10596 of 14867
    Joined 5/10/2007

    Yet, they cannot afford more than one towel per handwashing. I would like to see people wasting those supplies to the hilt--wasting the littera-trash, also.

    Bangalore posted Thu, 22 Jul 2010 14:23:00 GMT(7/22/2010)

    Post 487 of 2697
    Joined 3/9/2009

    Yet they keep asking for donations from the rank and file.

    Bangalore

    designs posted Thu, 22 Jul 2010 14:49:00 GMT(7/22/2010)

    Post 1755 of 18405
    Joined 6/17/2009

    The Society's real estate holdings are small potatoes compared to the Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, at least with the Lutheran Fund you get a dividend, they run it like a real business.

    F coffee_black posted Thu, 22 Jul 2010 15:43:00 GMT(7/22/2010)

    Post 2493 of 3276
    Joined 2/6/2002

    If the Brooklyn properties are worth that much....imagine the $ total of all their facilities around the world! In the Proclaimers book, there were roughly 50 pages of pictures of branch facilities etc.

    Coffee

    F Gayle posted Tue, 20 Sep 2011 22:12:00 GMT(9/20/2011)

    Post 2935 of 4496
    Joined 11/17/2006

    Is anyone tracking these properties?

    I have it, correct me if wrong please:

    Sold:

    139 Columbia Heights (Standish Arms Hotel) Sold = $50M

    67 Livingston - Sold = $18.6M

    89 Hicks - Sold = $14M

    360 Furman - Sold = $250M

    For Sale:

    34 Orange St = asking $3.5M

    165 Columbia Heights = asking $4.5M

    67 Ramsen St = asking $3.6M

    105 Willow St = asking $3.6M

    76 Willow St = $3.6M

    161 Columbia Heights - ?

    183 Columbia Heights - ?

    50 Orange St - ?

    F Gayle posted Tue, 20 Sep 2011 22:28:00 GMT(9/20/2011)

    Post 2936 of 4496
    Joined 11/17/2006

    More addresses I found awhile back but I don't know how accurate or current status, needs updates or corrections no doubt:

    124 Columbia Heights (I suspect that will be the last one to go)

    107 Columbia Heights

    119 Coumbia Heights

    129 Columbia Heights (maybe that one is sold already?)

    117 Adams

    25-30 (?) Columbia Heights (is that the former Squibb Building?)

    79-99 (?) Willow St ( not sure about this one - Towers Hotel?)

    97 Columbia Heights (Margaret Hotel?)

    175 Pearl St

    90 Sands St

    98 Montague (Bosset Hotel) was for sale for $100M but fell through

    108 Joralemon ST

    107 Willow St.

    85 Jay St

    25 Clark St (Leverich Tower Hotel)

    (again, please I am just throwing this out to all that know more about these Brooklyn WT properties, just to keep track a bit) So all corrections are very welcome.

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