Eye On Real Estate: Main Street in Heights Sets Sights On New Hotel Traffic
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dial M – for Montague.
The Montague Street Business Improvement District is ready to roll out a new logo for a branding campaign for Brooklyn Heights' preeminent retail corridor – from its new office at 141 Montague St., which is more accessible to constituents than its previous location.
The neon-green logo has a larger-than-life letter M, with a modified rectangle shaped like a map of the three-block BID district and the word “MONTAGUE” imposed on one leg of it.
“We wanted a logo that accurately reflected Montague Street in presenting its energy and vitality in an iconic way,” Brigit Pinnell, the business advocacy group's executive director, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The organization's current logo, which consists of its name laid out in an asymmetrical design, is a lot to take in at a quick glance. A pictorial symbol should be easier to remember.
A logo “can be effective when it sticks in people's minds – it elicits a sense of recognition,” Pinnell said.
Shoppers should be seeing the new marketing symbol sprout up by summer's end along the land-marked street of brownstones with distinctive storefronts, many several steps above or below street level.
The Montague M will emblazon street-lamp banners, “Keep Montague Street clean” trash-receptacle signs, “Curb your dog” signs on tree-pit guards, even sanitation workers' uniforms. Online and in print, it will grace the BID's website and e-blast template, its stationery, its advertising and its posters, postcards and other marketing collateral.
A year ahead of the re-opening of the Bossert Hotel – once known as the “Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn” – retail space is nearly all spoken for in the district, which has an eclectic mix of long-time local players like Armando's restaurant and Bentley's shoe store plus national names like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft.
“When we have a vacancy, it tends to get grabbed pretty quickly,” she said. A national credit-worthy tenant, European Wax Center, just snapped up a storefront at 130 Montague St., as the Eagle reported.
The one looming vacancy is Starbucks' former location, 112 Montague St., which has been empty for 14 months. Landlord Nathan Royce Silverstein is holding out for a creditworthy tenant and nixing restaurants and nail salons as prospects.
Despite concerns about possible traffic problems, the luxury hotel should be a boon to BID members: “It adds so many customers rotating through; it enlivens the street with evening activities,” said Pinnell.
The aim of having a new logo for the famed street is to create a “strong and cohesive” brand for it, she explained.
When the BID sought bids for the new logo design, branding agency Pentagram was a standout. The firm, with offices in Manhattan, London, Berlin, San Francisco and Austin, did logo and signage work for the Brooklyn Academy of Music and its popular Next Wave Festival.
For the BID, it was a big plus that one of the partners, Emily Oberman, is a Heights resident, “with a first-hand knowledge and a personal interest in Montague Street,” Pinnell said.
The BID's board unanimously chose the M logo from numerous concepts Pentagram presented, said Pinnell, who just moved the group's office to the second floor of 141 Montague St., which belongs to BID president Maria Foffe.
“The great thing about this space is that it will be able to accommodate walk-ins,” said Pinnell, who's getting accustomed to the floor-to-ceiling windows that put her in full view of passerby on the street.
The organization's office was on the attic floor of 157 Montague St., the Parish House of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church. “It was quaint in an 1850s Paris kind of way” with “extremely reasonable” rent, she said.
Other nonprofits that were also tenants on the upstairs floors of 157 Montague moved out of Brooklyn Heights when the Episcopal church alerted them that the building needed to be vacated so long-planned renovation could begin, she said. As a service organization devoted to Montague Street, the BID, of course, needed to remain.
St. Ann's got the ball rolling on its renovation efforts in 2007 by arranging the sale of its five-story brownstone at 122 Pierrepont St. to raise money for the rehab work. The permission of the bishop, the diocese and state Supreme Court was needed before the $4.25 million deal was finalized in 2009.
The renovation project, as described in a church bulletin in May, was slowed because its principal architect had a health crisis and a replacement had to be hired.
Interior work is expected to start in the fall. It will include the installation of an elevator to compensate for an architectural quirk: 157 Montague was originally two buildings, combined at the start of the 20th Century. The upper floors on the two sides of the property don't match up.
In addition to upstairs renovations, the basement will be outfitted as a meeting room and the main floor gathering space will get a new entryway and kitchen.
Pinnell reached out to property owners and brokers connected with the BID for help in finding a new office. The 141 Montague site – whose most recent tenant had been Brownstone Real Estate LLC – was vacant. In years past, the space housed the Brooklyn Heights Press, the Eagle's sister publication.
Pinnell wouldn't reveal whether Foffe is charging the BID below-market rent. “She was very cognizant of the fact we're a non-profit,” was all Pinnell would say.
Foffe was reticent about revealing the rent as well.
“It is a unique situation because I will be sharing the office with [Pinnell] from time to time,” the BID president said.