Two trees threaten to sell Williamsburg site

Jed Walentas, CEO of Two Trees, and representations of the controversial project. (Getty, James Corner Field Operations / Bjarke Ingels Group)

Be careful what you wish for. That’s the message Two Trees Management has for opponents who want to block the developer’s plans for a pair of apartment towers on the Williamsburg waterfront.

The Brooklyn-based developer is dealing with a setback in its plan to rezoning a large property along the East River to make way for its Mixed-use project “River Ring”, which would include 1,250 rental apartments, offices, swimming pool and beach.

But if opponents are successful in taking down the rezoning, Two Trees says it will sell the site, and the most likely buyer will be a logistics developer building a last-mile distribution warehouse.

“We are fully committed to the plan we presented, and we believe the best use for this site is mixed-income rental housing and a world-class park,” Two Trees spokesman David Lombino told The Real Deal.

These kinds of large mixed-use residential projects, Lombino added, are Two Trees’ specialty. So if the plan is not approved, the company will sell the site.

“There has been an incredible explosion in demand for last mile deliveries and our phone has been ringing regularly from last mile developers who see our site as a potential location for a large facility,” he said.

The main opposition to the Two Trees proposal comes from a group called Sustainable Williamsburg, which argues that the plan will increase gentrification and affect neighborhood infrastructure like the subway.

They say there are other alternatives to the big Two Trees rezoning proposal, such as a smaller residential project or the development of a retail / light-manufactured building that is allowed out of the box. And they are skeptical that the developer will sell if the large-scale rezoning is not approved.

“It is a threat that the developer has been spreading for some time,” wrote a representative of the group in an email. “We think TwoTrees would be unlikely to sell such valuable land for a logistics warehouse, of course that would be their decision.”

Lombino from Two Trees, however, said it’s not a hoax.

“There is a perception that if our plan doesn’t work, we will stick around and stick with it and produce something different,” he said. “I think it is a fiction.”

Two Trees purchased the 3.2 acre site from Con Edison in early 2020 for $ 150 million. The developer filed a scoping draft in March with the Department of Urban Planning outlining its proposal for 1,250 apartments, 313 of which would be reserved as affordable housing, 83,000 square feet of commercial space and a 3.1-acre park.

The proposal would have to go through the city’s land use process, and with a citywide election scheduled for later this year, that means a new Williamsburg council member and the new mayoral administration will take over. the decision on the fate of the project.

The eight candidates vying for the seat on the Williamsburg council signed a petition in October opposing the Two Trees plan.

Meanwhile, the demand for warehouse space in the city is booming.

Prologis Senior Vice President Jeremiah Kane said the Two Trees site is attractive to last-mile distribution tenants, who are becoming more agile by relying on things like bikes and foot traffic to make deliveries, rather than trucks. large.

He said Prologis will be interested in the developer’s site if it is available.

“As far as the market is concerned, we lost it, frankly,” he said. “If it hit the market today, I think logistics companies would be competitive.”

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