A Red Hook developer might be thinking out of the box, but as far as the city knows, Joe Sitt is thinking big box.
Sitt, speaking at the Real Estate Roundtable at the Brooklyn Historical Society this week, pointed to the success of Red Hook’s IKEA and Fairway, and said he too envisions retail, but with a residential component — and possibly student housing — at the Revere Sugar refinery site on Richards Street.
“You have to think out of the box of what else would be great in Red Hook, and when I think of things around the city of New York that are under-served, one of the things (that) we really need more of is student housing,” said Sitt, whose development firm Thor Equities paid $40.5 million for the site in 2005, at the apex of the real estate bubble.
Sitt said when you pick up the phone to all the universities, they all say they need more housing for their students.
“I do believe that places throughout the city including Red Hook would be great [for student housing]. It has the quality of life and great views,” he said.
But according to the Department of City Planning, Sitt has only come to the agency over the past few months regarding a proposal for a big box store and retail mall.The proposal has not been formally submitted, and Sitt and staffers are in initial discussions regarding site planning. The agency stressed that the only proposal its seen has been a retail project.
The site is zoned for manufacturing, and any proposal for retail would require a zoning change and a special permit. The scheme would trigger a provision that calls for waterfront public access — a priority for the Bloomberg Administration throughout the city.
Local activist Lou Sones said he’d love to see activity on the site, be it a marina, restaurant, or residential or student housing.“Anything other than a big box store,” which would clog local streets with traffic and do little to enhance residents’ quality of life, he said. “But I think Sitt will do whatever is practical for him, and then he’s going to try to sell it [to the community,” Sones added.
A local real estate expert said he doesn’t see a dorm working on the site. “It’s too remote,” said the person, who wished to remain anonymous. “There are no prospects to flip at this point.He may have paid more than it was worth already.”
—with Stephen Witt