Stores, Restaurant Will Link Downtown to Fulton Mall
By Raanan Geberer
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz announced on Monday the long-awaited developer who will transform the western part of the first two floors of the Brooklyn Municipal Building into retail space, connecting the Fulton Mall and Court Street shopping districts.
Speaking at a news conference within the 1920s-era building, which mainly contains city offices, they announced that the developer will be United American Land, headed by Albert Laboz. The company, which is active in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, owns a group of properties on and near Fulton, Bridge and Willoughby streets.
The company is currently building an H&M store on Bridge Street, and Laboz himself is chair of the Fulton Street Mall Improvement Association.
The 49,900 square feet of retail will contain a high-end restaurant and several retail stores, although specific stores haven’t yet been selected. The project is also expected create 64 full-time construction jobs and 114 permanent jobs. Markowitz said this makes the project even better than the Apple store that he had unsuccessfully tried to lure into the new space.
Bloomberg later expressed hope that an Apple store will still come to Brooklyn in another location.
Bloomberg, Markowitz and other speakers portrayed the Municipal Building deal as part of a movement of “name” retail stores to Downtown Brooklyn, such as the Gap, the aforementioned H&M, the Shake Shack and the recently-opened SmashBurger. They also boasted about the new hotels in the area, such as the Sheraton, the Aloft and the Nu Hotel.
They thanked other high-ranking officials who helped the process along, such as Deputy Mayor Robert Steel; Alan Fishman and Joe Chan of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership; Seth Pinsky, head of the city’s Economic Development Corp.; Carlo Scissura, BP Markowitz’ chief of staff; and Laboz, whom Markowitz called “a nice Brooklyn boychick.”
In addition, they thanked the city Department of Finance, which now occupies the space in question and which has agreed to move its offices elsewhere within the building.
In response to this reporter’s question, Laboz said that the stores will have separate entrances on Court Street, while visitors to the city offices within the building will enter through the current Joralemon Street entrance.
Markowitz humorously introduced Fishman, who co-chairs the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and chairs the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., as “the president of everything in Brooklyn – except that he’s not the borough president. That’s me, of course.”
Fishman said that because of recent investment in Downtown Brooklyn, the area “is well positioned to really surge once the global recession subsides.”
Laboz thanked Chan for initially approaching him to develop the “dead zone” that the Municipal Building’s façade represented and develop it. “I’m thrilled to have been selected and to bring jobs to the site.”
The plan to introduced retail into the Municipal Building was made public in February. During the question-and-answer period yesterday, officials revealed that there originally had been 10 bids and that United American Land’s bid was $10 million. The list of the other bidders was not provided by press time.