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Passing the sugar: Former Domino plant up for sale

Real estate insiders say Williamsburg's Domino Sugar plant is up for sale.
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It could be Brooklyn’s sweetest real estate deal ever.

The developers behind a plan to turn the former Domino sugar factory into 2,200 units of housing and retail space are trying to sell the massive waterfront property, multiple real estate sources told The Brooklyn Paper.

Industry insiders say the owners of the Williamsburg complex — Community Preservation Corporation Resources and the Katan Group — have reached out to prospective buyers interested in taking over the planned mega-project that gained city approval less than two years ago.

It’s a move that could make the developers a bundle without having to put a shovel in the ground, according to Creative Real Estate Group CEO Chris Havens.

“It’s in play,” said Havens, who claims an interested client inquired about the Kent Avenue site. “They’ll make so much money selling it.”

The developers purchased the site in 2004 for $55.8 million, according to city records, and nearly sold it to 15 investors for $200 million in December before the deal fell through after some backers got skittish about the project’s finances and zoning variances, Kalmon Dolgin senior director Bob Klein said.

“You have to be a big player to tackle Domino,” said Klein. “They were going to break it up into partnerships but it fell apart.”

Susan Pollock, vice president of the developers, did not deny that the project — once slated to be worth between $1.2 billion and $2 billion when completed — is on the market.

“We are pursuing various options that will achieve our goals— to realize value for ourselves and our partners and to insure that development is consistent with all project entitlemen­ts,” said Pollack, who previously acknowledged her company was seeking more investors to help get the project underway.

The developer’s Williamsburg allies insist that Community Preservation Corporation Resources is not walking away from the project — citing the recent hiring of new CEO Rafael Cestero, former head of the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation Development.

“Why would they choose Rafael as their lead if they want to back out?” said Churches United director Rob Solano, a long-time supporter of the Domino plan — which calls for 660 units of below market rate housing and two sky-scraping 34-story towers. “Rafael is an affordable housing leader in New York City. I do believe they’re trying to get more investors.”

Cestero did not respond to requests for comment and Katan Group president Isaac Katan declined to discuss the state of Domino. Former Community Preservation Corporation Resources CEO Michael Lappin, who stepped down last November, said he did not know the status of the project.

Opponents of the Domino plan said talk of the building going on sale — first reported by the Commercial Observer — only made them more skeptical about whether the project will be built as planned.

“The community got shafted on this one,” said Williamsburg resident Stephanie Eisenberg, who sued the developer and the city in an attempt to halt the project a year ago. “They never were going to do this project. They never had the plans, they never had the money. They had a lot of chutzpah. That’s what they had.”

The brick-and-mortar factory manufactured sugar on South Williamsburg’s waterfront for 150 years, until it shut down in 2004. The developers scooped it up and found themselves in the midst of a battle over the future of the neighborhood, finding supporters among North Brooklynites who want more affordable housing and opponents among those wary of high-rise residences popping up along the waterfront.

The plan made it through the city’s landmarking and land-use protocols before winning over City Council.

No matter who’s holding it, experts think the iconic industrial complex, known for its beloved sign, rounded-windows, is a valuable property.

“Domino is a nice piece,” said Klein.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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Reader Feedback

Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=392806822300
March 14, 2012, 10:23 am
BP says:
During the 5 year approval process from 2005-2010, concerns about Isaac Katan's stake in the project were raised by concerned citizens many times.

CPC's response was always "we have the majority stake and full control"

Solano is wrong here -- CPC losing control over the project to for-profit luxury developers is a major cause for concern that the affordable housing and amenities promised by CPC (which in my opinion were already not enough to justify the scale of this project) will be substantially reduced
March 14, 2012, 11:38 am
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
When you read stories like this you understand why we have Occupied Wall Street & Tea Parties.
March 14, 2012, 11:49 am
Billy from B-Burg says:
Judah, the Tea Party???? Really??????? You mean those fools who are dancing to the Koch Brothers tune and being manipulated to get the billionaires more tax breaks before being totally betrayed? THOSE tea partiers?

Now Occupy Wall Street, that reference I get. That's a legitimate grass roots citizens' revolt that scares the pants off the establishment and the Tea Party Puppet Masters

But this does sound like this project is gonna produce about as much affordable housing as Ratner's Atlantic Yards debacle!
March 14, 2012, 12:29 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The way to make housing affordable is to let people build way more of it.
March 14, 2012, 3:09 pm
AAV from Park Slope says:
How about some schools for all the new and some of the old families in Williamsburg? Where are those kids going to go to school? Seriously, this is a big problem anytime you have condos go up.
March 16, 2012, 11:56 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Odd, reading these "authorities" in Williamsburg talk about how they "always" knew that CPC would default on New Domino. I remember things quite differently: I remember rigid-neckedness and scoffing at the mere suggestion New Domino would not survive these years.

In fact, I remember prognosticating New Domino's demise at the Pierogi gallery in a meeting organized by Williamsburg and Greenpoint special interests to support Assemblyman Vito Lopez and New York City Councilman Stephen Levin. The meeting's purpose was to undermine the ascendant Latino coalition headed by New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and community activist Esteban Duran whose support was crucial to CPC/R's passage through myriad municipal agencies in building “New Domino.” In the summers since that meeting that audience rallied around slogans like “change happens” to further their position but remained stiff-necked and unprepared in the face of the situation's actual dynamics. Their position remains that of obstruction and non-position. Whereas multiple signs indicated openings by which alternate visions could be conceived and developed the community, the same community that right now with 20-20 hindsight claims to have never doubted the inevitable has yet, if just to exploit that hindsight, proffered no counter-proposal daring or significant enough to maximize the social good potentiated by such an opportunity except for University for Civic Engineering and Environmental Science.

And yet, there I am, reading Brooklyn11211 by Ward Dennis of NAG, THE NAG that refused to consider any possibility but CPC's vision of the Domino Sugar site if only to support what they thought was a promising politician in Councilman Stephen Levin, claim that CPC's default should read as "no surprise to anyone in the community." Or the other sites--all of them I remember quite vividly leveling slurs like "crazy" and "insane" whenever possibility outside of "New Domino" was mentioned.

Let me clarify because I'm aware there were objections to size and dimension which were not qualitative but quantitative. The persons who supported Stephen Levin WERE NOT openly in support of New Domino, never in the way that Solaño, Duran or Reyna ever were. But they were OPENLY in support of Stephen Levin and that meant gravitation towards Lopez. And I have already previously argued that Levin's objections lacked merit as they were quantitative. Levin implicitly supported a DEGREE of the plan, a substantial one at that, and what is important about everyone's grief is they are mourning over the WRONG PLAN. Supporting Levin was more important to some than opposing this wrong plan.
March 17, 2012, 9 am

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