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Luxury Developer Plans High-End Artist Studios and Homes in Red Hook

By Alan Neuhauser | December 3, 2012 11:21am | Updated on December 3, 2012 11:23am

RED HOOK — A luxury developer that built an international fashion hub in Milan plans to create a pair of high-end artists' "villages" in an abandoned warehouse and factory near the Red Hook waterfront.

Est4te Four, based in Los Angeles, bought a low-slung, red-brick brick warehouse at 202 Coffey St. for $11.8 million earlier this year, one of the firm's partners said, confirming an account first reported on Curbed.

The firm is also planning to buy the former New York Dock Company building at 160 Imlay St. for about $25 million, partner Massimiliano Senise told DNAinfo.com New York, in a deal that is expected to close next month.

"We want to create a creative hub in Red Hook," Senise said. "We like to put young designers right next to big, already well-known fashion brands. We like to put everyone under the same roof, like a village experience."

Est4te Four, which relocated to California from London, gained worldwide acclaim as the developer of "Zona Tortona" in western Milan, a neighborhood outside the city center once filled with abandoned warehouses and seedy enterprises. The fashion complex, measuring roughly 3.5 million square feet, attracted Armani, Esprit, Hugo Boss and a raft of luxury designers, becoming an international success story for helping revitalize the area.

"We feel like more than developers…we like regeneration," Senise said. "Buying and converting industrial areas into novelty workspace for working professionals."

The Coffey Street and Imlay Street warehouses are "derelict" properties, according to Senise. The buildings, more than a century old, have been empty for decades and fallen into disrepair. A latticework of scaffolding covers the front of the Dock Building on Imlay Street, and thick coats of rust-red paint barely cover the crumbling brick facade of the Coffey Street property.

"When we've been out there, people stop by on their bikes and say, 'I hope you're doing something with it,'" said Matthew Goodwin, 28, project manager for Adjmi and Andreoli, an architecture firm in the Flatiron District that's overseeing the design of the two projects.

And with tall windows, unusually high ceilings, and block-wide interiors, the buildings have the makings of near-ideal studio space.

Goodwin said he and his 10-person design team will preserve or restore as many of the buildings' original attributes as possible, from refurbishing the Dock Company label engraved on the top of the Imlay Street building — visible from as far away as Sunset Park — to installing new windows "that match contemporary factory aesthetics."

"We're treating the building as if it's a historical landmark," he described. "An ode to a factory industrial building. We're bringing it back to its original glory."

The Dock Company building will have commercial space on the first two floors, notably a restaurant and grocery store at street level, and artists' studios on the second story.

"The ground floor needs something for the community," Goodwin described. "Local attractions…to give it a little street life."

Residential apartments will fill the upper floors, and a pool will grace the building's roof. The property, all told, will hold 72 units.

The Coffey Street building, comprised of interconnected rectangular blocks, will consist of five studios and exhibition spaces, with one or two open-air courtyards in the middle.

Neither Goodwin nor Est4te Four would discuss how much the buildings' units will rent or sell for once construction is complete. One source familiar with the projects, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss financial details with the press, said residential units at the Dock Building will start at about $500,000.

Despite the price tag, which could prove prohibitive for most artists, Goodwin and Est4te Four said they are determined to attract new as well as established artists to the building, either by adjusting a unit's price or subdividing some of the studio or exhibition spaces.

"We're trying to create an incubator," Est4te Four's Sensise said, "an incubator to help promote young artists."