Big-Box Retailers Eyeing Sunset Park

By Alan Neuhauser on September 12, 2012 8:09am 

SUNSET PARK — The future home of the world's largest rooftop farm could also become one of Brooklyn's biggest retail spaces, home to Bed Bath & Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory, and other big-box stores offering hundreds of jobs to local residents.

The former Federal Building #2, located next-door to the federal Metropolitan Detention Center on Third Avenue in Sunset Park, is an eight-story warehouse space that measures 1.1-million-square-feet. Vacant since 2000, it is zoned for industrial and manufacturing, as well as retail stores smaller than 10,000 square feet.

On Wednesday night, however, Brooklyn Community Board 7 will decide whether to grant owner Salmar Properties LLC a variance that would waive the space restriction on retail and allow big-box stores at the building.

"People are interested in getting the building back into use, and are interested in the jobs that it might provide," district manager Jeremy Laufer said.

Salmar bought the building from the city's Economic Development Corporation for $10 million in August 2011. The deal included tax incentives for Salmar, the EDC said, in exchange for a $35 million investment by Salmar to repair the building's facade, roof and windows, install elevators, plumbing and electrical wiring, plus an expectation that Salmar and the building's tenants provide 1,300 permanent industrial jobs and 400 construction jobs.

Big-box retail, if approved by the community board Wednesday, could add an additional 500 jobs, Salmar co-owner Marvin Schein said.

“Transforming this vacant warehouse into a state-of-the-art industrial center is a major achievement, and a critical step in the Bloomberg Administration’s efforts to strengthen New York City’s industrial sector,” EDC president Seth Pinsky said in a statement following an Oct. 20 groundbreaking ceremony.

“This building will soon be home to more than a thousand well-paying jobs, and is a perfect example of how we can creatively work together with our private and public sector partners to grow the City’s economy.”

About 15 percent — or 180,000 square feet — would be dedicated to retail, Laufer and an EDC spokesman said. Bed Bath & Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory and Micro Center, an electronics store, are among the major retailers that have expressed interest in the space, which is adjacent to planned parking lots next door, Schein stated.

The stores did not return calls for comment.

"Since it's one of the very few properties in Brooklyn that has parking, it's very, very desirable to have retail, such as a department store, open shop," he said. The building also fronts the Gowanus Expressway and several multi-lane surface roads, including Third Avenue.

The building is expected to open by the summer of 2013, Schein said, and retail space will rent for $30 to $35 a foot.

About 100,000 square feet of the roof, meanwhile, will be converted into a multi-acre farm by BrightFarms, a Midtown-based greenhouse development and maintenance company. By 2013, the farm is expected to begin producing more than one million pounds a year of tomatoes, lettuces and other vegetables and herbs.

"This whole area is being rejuvenated," Schein said. "It's coming down from Park Slope and it's heading south. In five or 10 years, a lot of change is going to come in this area. It's great for the community, and it will be a great anchor for investment in this building."

The community board's hearing on Wednesday starts at 6:30 p.m. at the board's offices at 4201 Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn.

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