For sale! City puts two floors of Municipal Building on the market

Municipal mall
The Brooklyn Paper / Zachary Kolodin

The Municipal Building could become a place to buy things rather than pay parking tickets under a city plan to convert two floors of the stolid Downtown office building into a retail store, restaurant or, if Borough President Markowitz has any say over the matter, an Apple store.

“I will definitely be pitching to Apple,” Markowitz said on Monday after the city announced that it had begun seeking developers to buy or lease two floors of the building, which currently houses a ticket-paying office at Joralemon and Court streets. “It’s the perfect location for it and there’s no reason why Apple shouldn’t be in Brooklyn.”

Apple head honcho Steve Jobs has been playing hard-to-get, Markowitz said. Indeed, he still hasn’t even responded to Markowitz’s original pitch, a video that showed the Beep buying an iPad and then using the device to e-mail Jobs.

Markowitz may be pie-eyed over Apple, but city leaders say they will lease the space to whatever company makes the highest bid. The space, which is about two-thirds of the size of the proposed Whole Foods in Gowanus, may even host multiple stores, depending on the type of proposals the city receives, said Stephen Goldsmith, deputy mayor for operations.

The city would not indicate how much money it expects from the bids, but the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which has been pitching the building for three years, says that selling the two floors could gross up to $20 million, most likely thanks to the great location — at one of Brooklyn’s busiest corners and close to 14 subway lines and 16 buses.

“Real estate is all about location, and there’s no better spot for retailers today,” Markowitz said.

National chains have indeed been rushing into Downtown Brooklyn with an excitement not seen since the early part of the last century. In the past few weeks, Panera Bread, Filene’s Basement and Shake Shack have announced that they’d be staking their claim in the area, joining H&M, Trader Joe’s, Barney’s Co-Op and Aeropostale on the area’s chain gang.

The privatization of the municipal building is part of a city-wide effort to consolidate money-sucking city offices and make room for money-making shopping centers. Turning’ offices into sites for retail could save the city up to $36 million a year, officials say.

The Department of Finance’s Municipal Building offices would be relocated by the time a new tenant moves in 2012. Other agencies, including the City Clerk, will continue to operate in the remaining 11 floors.

… and how Downtown planners hope it will someday look as a retail hub.