Empire Stores, Dumbo: From Warehouse to Shopping Center

Left: The Empire Stores in 1935, by Berenice Abbott, via New York Public Library. Right: Rendering of Empire Stores courtyard.

Empire Stores is the latest in a series of projects that have been turning the Dumbo waterfront into an attraction for both locals and tourists. Opening out onto the ever-evolving Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Empire Stores complex will be a 500,000-square-foot shopping and office complex with a projected opening date of the summer of 2016.

It’s not going to be a typical shopping center, though. It’s location in Brooklyn Bridge Park, so close to the Brooklyn Bridge and the Fulton Ferry Landing will make it a must-see stop for tourists visiting Brooklyn. Empire Stores will feature some of the best views in the city, especially from its rooftop beer garden, and a dedicated museum space, curated by Brooklyn Historical Society, will showcase the story of this historic building, as well Dumbo’s journey from a waterfront hub of industry to Brooklyn’s center for design and technology.

The complex, constructed inside a 19th-century warehouse that stood vacant since 1945, will include such destinations as the prestigious Vinegar Hill House restaurant, home furnishing store West Elm, watch and apparel company Shinola. There will also be space for local artists to display their works.


Rendering from empirestoresdumbo.com

Rendering from empirestoresdumbo.com

Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola will be opening a store in the Empire Stores in the Fulton Ferry Historic District, according to a Crain’s article.

Shinola will be leasing 5,000 square feet of retail space and will be its first in Brooklyn. They currently have a store on Franklin Street in TriBeCa. Crain’s says that like that location, the new one will feature a cafe operated by The Smile. Dumbo retailers Dabney Lee and Modern Anthology also offer Shinola products.

The Crain’s article notes that the lease is a 10 year deal and Shinola will “showcase other products that Shinola has expanded into, including high-end handmade bicycles and apparel such as leather goods and clothing.”

Mr. Beare said that most of Empire Store’s 75,000 square feet of retail space is now spoken for. He is in the process of finishing about 20,000 square feet of deals, including a yet-to-be-announced 9,500-square-foot food market and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant. He is also about to name the operator of a beer garden that will occupy a public space on the building’s roof. Only about 7,000 square feet of retail space remains available at the property. The food market will feel even bigger, Mr. Beare said, because it will connect into the restaurant space, The Smile cafe, Vinegar Hill House, as well as the building’s glass-roofed central lobby.

“We started with asking rents of $150 per square foot but have since bumped that to $200 per square foot because of the activity and interest,” Mr. Beare said. “The rates we’re getting are much higher than we expected.”

Mr. Beare said the food market will echo Eataly, the popular Italian culinary emporium on West 23rd Street. “It’s going to incorporate many food types and local vendors,” he said.

Last month, Eater noted that Vinegar Hill House and London based Pizza East have also leased space at Empire Stores.

Empire Stores is scheduled to be completed in early 2016.

{Empire Store Redevelopment Announcement, 04Sep2013, DumboNYC}

10/31/13 2:14pm
Photo Credit: Edward Reed

Photo Credit: Edward Reed

Mayor Michael Bloomberg today broke ground on the new home of St. Ann’s Warehouse at Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Mayor was joined by Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, St. Ann’s Warehouse Executive Director Susan Feldman, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Veronica M. White. The selection of the developer and plans were announced in September 2013.

“Today is another big day for Brooklyn Bridge Park – and the beginning of a great new chapter in the history of the Tobacco Warehouse and the St. Ann’s Warehouse performing arts institution,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The renovated Warehouse will house a multi-use space for artists, schools, and community groups and will be a wonderful addition to New York’s proud tradition of arts and culture in our public parks.”

Image from Marvel Architects

Image from Marvel Architects

St. Ann’s Warehouse is currently at 29 Jay Street until the construction of the new space is completed in the Fall of 2015. The Mayor’s press release states, “In its current, roofless state, the Tobacco Warehouse assumes a trapezoidal footprint made up of a rectangle and an adjacent triangle. With St. Ann’s Warehouse, Marvel Architects PLLC has designed an 18,000-square-foot enclosed building with a flexible performance space the size and signature style of St. Ann’s previous warehouse theaters; a second, 1,000-square-foot multi-use community space for local artists, educational and community groups; artists’ support spaces; offices, and a waterside lobby with many archways and access points to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The original brick walls are to be preserved and visible throughout the foyers, theater and Community Room. The 7,600-square-foot triangle space will be left open-air, and is imagined as a walled birch tree grove, to be landscaped by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and open to the public, through its many open arches, during Park hours. The original walls for the Triangle Garden will be experienced first-hand by park visitors seeking shelter from the wind or shade from the sun. It may also serve as an entranceway for the theater and Community Room from New Dock Street.”

Other park developments will also break ground in early 2014, including the Main Street section of the park and John Street condo develpment and parkland.

Full press release from the Mayor’s Office: nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/353-13/mayor-bloomberg-breaks-ground-new-home-st-ann-s-warehouse-brooklyn-bridge-park

More about the future St. Ann’s Warehouse here: stannswarehouse.org/tobacco_warehouse.php

Click more for additional renderings:

09/04/13 5:41pm

Aerial View_Credit Studio V

Mayor Bloomberg announced today that Midtown Equities, in partnership with Rockwood Capital and HK Organization, to redevelop Empire Stores, vacant warehouse buildings in Dumbo and Fulton Ferry Landing. The adaptive reuse plans call for commercial uses including restaurant, event, retail and office space. While this selection announced a few weeks ago, the announcement makes this official, and NYC added new renderings of the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse.

In addition, the board also approved a long-term lease with St. Ann’s Warehouse to develop a theater in the historic Tobacco Warehouse.

TW, St. Ann's Warehouse, Water Street_Credit Rogers Marvel Architects

The announcement also highlights the completion of a federal process that will allow for the addition of new parkland at Main Street in Dumbo (first announced in May). “All across the waterfront, we are reclaiming and renewing areas that have long been abandoned or neglected, and Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse are the latest examples of that work,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These redevelopment plans will bring even more new life and excitement to the DUMBO waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park, giving residents and visitors more places to work, shop, dine, and experience the arts. The expansion and success of the park is due in large part to our partnerships with New York State Parks and the National Park Service, and we are grateful for their help.”

The Empire Stores are a complex of seven contiguous four- and five-story historic warehouses containing approximately 347,000 gross square feet. The warehouses, located in DUMBO, were built between 1869 and 1885 and primarily used for coffee storage until they were abandoned in the 1960s. The warehouses have been closed for over 50 years due to deteriorated buildings conditions. Redevelopment will reactivate the structure and allow for a mix of commercial, retail and office uses that complement that unique character of this industrial waterfront structure. A team led by Midtown Equities will enter into a 96-year ground lease of the site. Their proposed building plan will feature nearly 80,000 square feet of restaurant, retail, and event space and 300,000 square feet of office space.

BBP North Park Map_Credit BBP

West Elm is expected to anchor the Empire Stores building by leasing both office and retail space of more than 150,000 square feet of space. (West Elm Press release). According to a West Elm press release, the new West Elm store will occupy the ground-floor space at 55 Water Street and will include waterfront-outdoor seating and a coffee shop created in partnership with La Colombe (similar to the existing one at West Elm Market), bringing coffee back to the former coffee warehouse after more than 50 years.

In addition, Midtown Equities is in talks with the Brooklyn Historical Society to include 3,200 square feet of exhibition space as part of the project to celebrate the rich cultural history of the borough. Construction is expected to being in early 2014 with an expected completion of fall 2015.

With the John Street condos and park at the Brooklyn Bridge Park also anticipated to begin in 2014 with expected completion in winter 2015, the north-east end of Brooklyn Bridge Park will be full of construction.

(Photos courtesy of NYC Mayor’s Office)

Press Releases:
{BrooklynBridgePark.org Press Release}
{MikeBloomberg.com Press Release}
{West Elm Press Release}

{New Recreation Area Design for Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Unveiled, 28Aug2013}
{Midtown Equities selected to transform the Empire Stores in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 26Aug2013}
{NYC Announces Developers for John Street Condos at Brooklyn Bridge Park, 01Aug2013}
{Empire Stores Proposal Responses, 14Jun2013}
{Brooklyn Bridge Park Main Street Conversion Proposed Design, 30May2013}
{Brooklyn Bridge Park Issues a Request to Develop Empire Stores, 02Oct2012}

For more photo renderings, click more below. (more…)

08/26/13 3:17pm

Empire Stores from Manhattan Bridge

According to Daily News and Gothamist, Midtown Equities has been selected as the developer to transform the Empire Stores in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Matt Chaban at the Daily News writes that Midtown Equities won the right to redevelop one of the most sought-after parcels in Brooklyn. Nine other developers submitted bids for the 327,000-square-foot former warehouse, including Two Trees Management, the Walentas family’s real estate firm, mostly responsible for Dumbo’s transformation since the late 1990s.

No word yet on which one of the submissions is the Midtown Equities one from the renderings submitted in June 2013.

From the Daily News article:

The deal comes at a time when interest in the neighborhood is booming.

Demand is so high for tech tenants, many of whom got their start in the neighborhood, that they are willing to pay twice as much to get into the Empire Stores. Office rents are said to be asking $60 per square foot, compared with a neighborhood average of $34 a square foot, according to brokerage aptsandlofts.com.

Even so, Midtown Equities already has secured commitments for as much as 80% of the three-story complex.

Restaurants and shops will line the ground floor, with offices above and a rooftop terrace with breathtaking views of the two bridges.

Among the companies duking it out for space in Empire Stores are furniture maker West Elm and online marketplace Etsy.

06/20/13 12:08pm

Tonight, June 20, 2013, from 5pm – 8pm the Tobacco Warehouse will be full of makers, music and food trucks will be nearby. The event is called Etsy Craft Party and part of a greater event where craft people all over the world meet and make. This year’s theme is Craft for Community and you’ll be sewing and embroidering hand puppets to donate to organizations that work with children.

In addition to making puppets to donate, attendees will have the chance to enter raffles, enjoy music and snacks from food trucks like Kimchi Taco and Coolhaus and take photos in our DIY photobooth.

The party is at the Tobacco Warehouse, in the Brooklyn Bridge Park between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges — perfect for photos in our DIY photo booth. There’s a raffle for new sellers and members, and attendees will have the chance to sample food truck treats from Brooklyn’s best, including Coolhaus and Kimchi Taco.

Bonus: the first 100 Etsy Sellers through the door will receive a free merit badge craft project printed by Spoonflower.

Cost is free, but RSVP here: etsycraftparty-etsyhq-brooklyn.eventbrite.com