Eye On Real Estate: Whole Foods picking up the tab for Coignet Building exterior fix-up
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A beloved, beleaguered Gowanus building is headed for a restoration that will uncover its ghostly stone-like facade – and Whole Foods will foot the bill.
The supermarket chain is making good on a pledge to renovate the exterior of the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company Building, a long-vacant city landmark flanked on its Third Avenue and 3rd Street sides by a just-built Whole Foods grocery store.
The 1870s-vintage building's original exterior is crafted of pale concrete that looks like stone. In August, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission issued a permit for a rehab plan that entails the removal of faux red brick that was added in recent decades, and covers up much of the original facade.
The removal of the faux brick from the building at 360 Third Ave. “will eliminate a feature that detracts from the significant architectural character of this building, and will return this building to its historic appearance,” the LPC permit says.
The building belongs to investor Richard Kowalski, who sold the development site to Whole Foods. (See related story.) The company is doing the renovation because “our goal is to become not just a business, but a member of this community, a neighbor,” Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra said.
A facade repair plan that Whole Foods submitted to the city Buildings Department pegs the estimated cost of the project – which includes the installation of new windows and doors – at $1.3 million. The department disapproved the plan in late October; its okay is required before work can begin.
Kowalski is looking for someone to buy or rent the lonely little building on the big development site, which has been the subject of a documentary film and a photo displayed at the Brooklyn Museum.
It has been on the market since January, with a sale price of $3 million or an annual rent of $180,000, according to published sources.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle spoke briefly to Kowalski, who grew up in the neighborhood.
“We've had offers from several people,” he said. “Naturally, we're waiting for Whole Foods to complete the renovations of the building.”
He declined to answer questions about the prospective takers – or what made him decide to part with the Coignet Building. In 2008, he told the Daily News he had wanted to open an art gallery and gift shop in the historic property.