May 4, 2016

Jehovah's Witnesses sell 124 Columbia Heights to Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola

Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
May 2, 2016

The building at left is 124 Columbia Heights, which the Jehovah's Witnesses have just sold. Photo courtesy of Jehovah's Witnesses
124 Columbia Heights
GOOOOAL, Watchtower!

The Jehovah's Witnesses have sold a Brooklyn Heights residential building situated on the Promenade, 124 Columbia Heights, for $105 million, city Finance Department records indicate.

The LLC that purchased the Watchtower building shares an address with TJMT Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Vincent Viola, the owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team.

Kudos to The Real Deal for being the first to report that the sale has been completed — and to notice that the person who signed the deed, which was recorded on April 29, on the buyer's behalf was Teresa Viola, Vincent's wife.

In addition to owning the South Florida National Hockey League team, Vincent Viola is the executive chairman of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm based in Manhattan. He is also the former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

There was no immediate word from Viola on his plans for 124 Columbia Heights. He did not respond to a call from the Brooklyn Eagle by deadline.

The 10-story residential building is situated within the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, which is a height-restricted neighborhood. It is unlikely the purchaser would demolish it.

A real estate source previously told the Eagle that the building would be an “easy conversion” to condos or rental apartments.

It is 152,000 square feet in size — which means it sold for about $690 per square foot.

This past December, when the Jehovah's Witnesses put the building up for sale, spokesman Richard Devine mentioned its “spectacular views” of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan.

The residential building stands on the former site of a row of brownstones, among them 110 Columbia Heights. Washington Roebling supervised the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge from that brownstone by watching workers through a telescope after he was crippled by the bends.

According to the Brooklyn Heights Association's website, residents of seven Watchtower buildings including 124 Columbia Heights began to move out of their homes today, May 2. The process will continue through January 2017.

They are heading upstate because the Watchtower has built a new headquarters in Warwick.

The closing of the sale of 124 Columbia Heights is a yet another step forward for the Watchtower in its years-long process of selling real estate holdings in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO to prepare for the move.

Recently, the Watchtower put neighboring 107 Columbia Heights onto the market. See related story.

Also, the religious organization has made a roughly $700 million handshake deal with Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to sell its headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights and a development site in DUMBO, 85 Jay St. The headquarters has the iconic red neon “Watchtower” sign that can be seen from Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.

The Watchtower has been a presence in Brooklyn Heights for a century — and still owns several properties in the neighborhood that it has not yet put up for sale.

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