A roof deck, an atrium, and a private entrance are just a few of the amenities at 505 Fulton St.

Mall is loft! Luxury apartments coming to Fulton

The Brooklyn Paper
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Forget waterfront high-rises, condos in former factories, and houseboats on the Gowanus Canal — Brooklynites will soon have the chance to live in a loft above Fulton Mall.

The 123-year-old Offerman department store building at 505 Fulton St. is being renovated to house four stories of luxury lofts above a retail complex on the rapidly changing commercial strip. When the landmarked building opens its doors to prospective renters — which is supposed to happen late this year — it will be the first time in decades the shopping haven has housed people (apart from a building at 490 Fulton St. that Long Island University converted to dorms in 2012).

“It’s going to be unlike anything else anywhere,” said developer Jody Laboz, who co-owns the building with his brother Al. “It’s going to be Old World meets New. We’re going to restore all the charm and character and the bones of the building.”

The overhaul of the ornate seven-story structure is part of a project by the Laboz brothers’ United American Land company, which has had a big hand in transforming the commercial strip.

In 2005, Al Laboz, longtime chairman of the Fulton Mall Improvement Association, told this paper he would redevelop the shopping area known as the Main Street of Black America the way he did Soho and Tribeca in Manhattan, converting the old commercial space into chic loft digs with the help of public money. The following year he told the New York Observer that he wanted to “make Fulton Mall into 34th Street” with “a sprinkling” of high-end lingerie and women’s clothing stores on the drag known for its sneaker and cellphone shops but anchored by a Macy’s.

It appears that he is getting his wish. The Offerman complex will include a TJ Maxx discount threads depot and sits next door to the already-opened location of the Swedish clothier H&M in a glass-walled building that the Laboz brothers also own. The surrounding few blocks still contain a smattering of hat and jewelry shops and lunch spots, but are also home to a growing crop of luxury retailers such as a Swarovski jewelry store and an Armani Exchange.

But apartments, which have in large part driven the massive upward development of Downtown since the neighborhood’s 2004 rezoning, will be a new sight on Fulton Mall. Shoppers we spoke to said they saw the latest change coming, but that does not necessarily make it a good thing.

“They have to build places for the young profession­al,” said Rock Smith, a lifelong Brooklynite browsing the racks at Fulton Mall’s Gap outlet. “It’s all part of gentrifica­tion.”

Residents of the 120 luxury lofts will not actually open up their doors onto the shopping haven, but will instead exit onto Duffield Street. As for the apartments themselves, they are going to be a sight to behold, according to Jody Laboz.

“Some of these apartments are going to have 15-foot ceilings,” he said. “There’s also going to be a common roof-deck and a magnificent atrium.”

The Offerman building housed Martin’s Department Store from 1924 to 1979 and was home to a Conway low-cost outfitter ahead of its latest overhaul.

Fulton Mall is the borough’s busiest shopping area with 100,000 people passing through each day, according to the Fulton Mall Improvement Association, but it holds a stigma that dates back to the economic downturn of the 1970s, according to one real estate broker.

“Old-time Brooklyners perceived it as a negative place. You only go there for jury duty or to a medical office,” said Chris Havens, a broker at “But the people coming in now, they haven’t heard about that.”

Havens is white and that negative perception depends on which old-timers you are talking about, according to documentarian Kelly Anderson. Anderson is a white woman whose movie “My Brooklyn” chronicles the displacement of small businesses Downtown after the 2004 rezoning, making the case that Fulton Mall’s status as a hub for working-class African-American shoppers was brushed aside in the push to build skyward and attract high-end stores.

“That sense of it as a gathering space has definitely been disrupted,” she said.

Smith, a black woman, echoed the sentiment, but said the seismic shifts Downtown have to do more with class than race.

“They want a certain demographic,” she said of developers like the Laboz brothers. “People with money.”

Fulton Mall was made a pedestrian shopping area as part of a 1980s urban renewal project, but in a 2006 interview with this paper, Al Laboz said that some of the upper-floor office space along it has been boarded up since the 1950s or 1960s.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
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Reader Feedback

Susan from Bay Ridge says:
This is a beautiful building. I remember it when it was a wreck. But luxury apartment on the Mall? Office space would have made much more sense.
Jan. 15, 2014, 9:43 am
Ted from Bklyn Hts says:
This is all about money and connections, from the celebration of the "long time chairman of the Fulton Mall" association getting his way (and possibly another few hundred million increase in accrued property values in the much else does he own?) to the cheerleading tone of this article.

Fulton Mall was the 3rd largest tax base in NYC before it was shut down by that rezoning. The shops were improving and the tax payments were rising. Of course, they were mainly black owned aimed at black consumers. Now a great deal is tax fallow, nothing currently operating or the new stuff getting years of tax abatements.

What won't this city spend to get rid of the poor, huh? Even if the poor are basically supporting them!
Jan. 15, 2014, 10:57 am
David from Brooklyn says:
"Fulton Mall was the 3rd largest tax base in NYC before it was shut down by that rezoning."

Shut down? It doesn't look shut down to me, quite the opposite. How has the Fulton Mall tax base been shut down?
Jan. 15, 2014, 12:24 pm
judah Spechal from bedstuy says:
Mr. Chris Haven, I guess you are trying sell a dew property, & that's all good, I m a Free Market guy, but you have Zero clue about Downtown Brooklyn & what it means to Brooklynite, your comment proves that.

The BrooklyniteI know who are going for jury duty says: " They have to go down to Borough Hall, Courts St or Adams St".

When a Brooklynite says they are going downtown, they mean they are going shopping.

Please man, get a clue!

There's a clue for you. Hope I am helpful in your next pitch.
Jan. 15, 2014, 2:02 pm
T-Bone from DoBro says:
What did the residential and highrise zoning have to do with the Mall - except add thousands of new potential customers. And what does "3rd largest tax base" mean - are you referring to sales tax? If that's what you meant - how does property tax abatement fit in?

As far as the building - it's quite impressive looks great. However, I would not want my condo over Fulton. Between the hiss of the bus hydraulics, cell phone carnival barkers and bright spotlights...
Jan. 15, 2014, 2:17 pm
Me from Sslope says:
Condos going up everywhere. Can't pass on a sidewalk Downtown to begin with there's so many people. Perfectly good hospitals are being sabotaged so they can be forced to close to build even more condos in them. Once all those people are moved in, we're going to be told:

Ooops - made a mistake big time. Too many people. Not enough services. Now we have to raise our taxes to build new ones. Sorry. Should have listened to the community & not closed those hospitals.

For real, the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.
Jan. 15, 2014, 8:06 pm
Ted from Bklyn Hts says:
When they did the rezoning, existing shopkeepers were forced out. Their landlords cancelled their leases, and the city tried to make it happen faster by offering pitiful relocation fees. Looks pretty prosperous? How many of those new businesses are paying property taxes? Damn few! Part of the "incentives" to get them to come in after they forced out the shopkeepers who had built it up.

Learn something before you shoot your mouth off.
Jan. 16, 2014, 4:38 pm
Smells like BS from Heights says:
It will be beautiful, 15' ceilings? Get off it - the beauty will be in your pocket. It was beautiful long before you evet touched it.

TJ Maxx, ect., you can keep them. They're killing the mom & pop's. There's no upward mobility if all the space for startups and small businesses are being monopolized by chains.

And the last thing we need is more residential space to put the new comers that shop the chains. It's a vicious cycle.

It's called over development - that's where we are and we're getting deeper and deeper into it. It's getting to be that you cannot move here anymore. Even out Parks are getting overcrouded.

Quality of life first - let's make it better for those that are here already rather than stuffing more in than fits. Power to the People!
Jan. 22, 2014, 8:19 pm

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