DUMBO — The iconic Watchtower complex will soon transform into a massive office and retail campus, according to plans unveiled Wednesday by Columbia Associates, the development team led by Kushner Companies that purchased the former Jehovah’s Witness headquarters for a reported $340 million last summer.
In addition to the Watchtower buildings at 25-30 Columbia Heights near Vine Street, the sale also includes three adjoining brick and tinder properties built in the late 19th century. Once renovations are complete, the campus will feature 635,000 square feet of office space and 35,000 square feet of retail. The combined spaces are estimated to house 5,000 workers at capacity.
According to a press release,the connective sky bridge, onsite garage, and double-height assembly spaces will remain. Renovations are mostly focused on the street level retail spaces, along with work being completed on the lobbies, elevators and mechanical infrastructure.
The large scale development is a joint venture between Kushner Companies, CIM Group, and LIVWRK Holdings. Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and key adviser who is reportedly being eyed by investigators for his meetings with allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reportedly negotiated the deal — one of the largest in Brooklyn’s history — with financial backing from Los Angeles-based private equity firm CIM Group.
The iconic Watchtower complex will soon transform into a massive office and retail campus, according to plans unveiled Wednesday by Columbia Associates, the development team led by Kushner Companies that purchased the former Jehovah’s Witness headquarters for a reported $340 million last summer. (Columbia Heights Associates/Volley Studio)
According to documents reviewed by WNYC, CIM Group has helped finance at least seven real estate deals benefiting Trump and his associates, while at the same time pursuing a host of lucrative government contracts, pension investments and lobbying interests.
Like the president, Kushner has distanced himself from his business in recent months, while not fully divesting his assets — something Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert at the Washington University School of Law, sees as troubling, even if it’s not technically illegal.
“I’m trying to think of a similar situation, and I’m coming up short,” Clark told WNYC. “Ethics laws weren’t written for this scenario.”
Regarding the Watchtower deal, a White House spokesperson told Fast Company, “[Kushner] is fully complying with federal ethics rules and will recuse himself as necessary.”
Fast Company notes that it appears that Kushner’s partners are taking the lead here, with LIVWRK CEO Asher Abehsera offering tours of the space and serving as the project’s spokesperson.
“Panorama will mark a shift in what America’s best companies expect in an urban office setting,” Abehsera said in a press release.
Following the purchase last summer, Kushner said in a statement, “We're always looking to raise the bar for how today's top companies want to work, and this property will set a new standard."
Nearby, Columbia Associates are currently developing the parking lot at 85 Jay St., also formerly owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. CIM helped Kushner Companies secure the property for $345 million in December.