By Rebecca Baird-Remba, Commercial Observer
At the turn of the last century, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was home to one of the biggest wholesale grocery markets in the world. At Wallabout Market, Brooklynites could buy meat, fish, dairy, produce and other kinds of foodstuffs, which would go onto grocery stores, restaurants and institutions. Across the street, among rows of cold storage warehouses, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company manufactured printing presses in a block-long industrial complex along Hall Street between Flushing and Park Avenues.
The Mergenthaler family built the oldest of the buildings, three- to six-story timber warehouses, in the 1890s, and then they hired well-known industrial architect Albert Kahn to design slightly taller concrete factories in the 1910s and 1920s. Now RXR Realty is revamping the 10-building, 650,000-square-foot complex into a creative office development called The Hall. Marvel Architects is overseeing the renovation, which includes replacing windows, repairing the building facades, replacing electrical and HVAC systems and upgrading the freight elevators.
The buildings are already connected via a series of skyways and basement passages, but RXR hopes to unite them by activating the ground-floor spaces in a pedestrian-friendly way. The ground floors will become 100,000 square feet of retail, expected to host food and beverage tenants, health clubs, art galleries, maybe a doggie day care, and other kinds of “experiential” concepts, according to David Gise, the executive director of The Hall. And existing pathways between the buildings will be landscaped, spruced up and turned into seating areas known as “porch plazas.”
“Our goal is to lean into the campus feel for the property and build community, both within the project and in the local community at large,” Gise said. “The goal is to bring the community in so they can flow through the courtyards.”
The plan is to bring workers and neighbors to the project with movies, concerts, markets and other kinds of events.
No leases have been signed with office or retail tenants, but RXR expects to close deals and announce tenants this fall. Diana Boutros and Alan Schmerzler of Cushman & Wakefield are leasing the retail, and C&W’s Joseph Cirone and Patrick Dugan are taking care of the office leasing. They’re marketing the project to a mix of light industrial manufacturers, artists, architects, tech startups and other kinds of creative office tenants.
RXR and Westbrook Partners purchased the industrial assemblage from Cammeby’s International, Eli Fruchthandler and Bruce Federman for $161 million in 2016. The $20 million renovation began in January and is expected to finish in the spring.
The RXR platform manages 68 commercial real estate properties and investments with an aggregate gross asset value of approximately $18.8 billion, comprising approximately 30.4 million square feet of commercial properties, inclusive of approximately 6.0 million square feet of buildings securing debt and preferred equity investments, a multi-family residential portfolio of approximately 2,600 units under operation or development, and control of development rights for an additional approximately 3,700 multi-family and for sale units in the New York Metropolitan area as of March 31, 2019. Gross asset value compiled by RXR Realty in accordance with company fair value measurement policy and is comprised of capital invested by RXR and its partners, as well as leverage.