Hostel move? Hotel owners buys iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank

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The owner of a low-price hostel chain has bought one of Williamsburg’s most-iconic landmarks for possible conversion into a high-end lodge, restaurant or retail shopping center.

Juan Figueroa, owner of the New York Loft Hostel, paid $4.5 million for the Williamsburgh Savings Bank branch on Driggs Avenue, across the street from Peter Luger in the neighborhood’s booming south side, Curbed reported on Monday.

Some speculated that Figueroa would seek another hostel for youth and international travelers similar to his popular Varet Street endeavor, but it’s more likely that he’ll use the shuttered bank for a mix of high-end uses, said Brendan Maddigan, who brokered the sale for Massey Knakal.

“He has other properties [so] it may not be a hostel,” said Maddigan. “To me, it seems like they are going to find one tenant who is going to come [into the dome] and do something interesting, whether a restaurant or catering event hall.”

Located on the corner of Broadway, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank branch was built in 1875 and designed by architect George Post, known for his stately public buildings such as the New York Stock Exchange, the College of the City of New York Campus as well as the original headquarters of the New York Times and the New York Post.

Landmarks spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon called the bank one of the first examples of Italian Renaissance-style architecture in the country and “as extraordinary today as it was when it was completed 135 years ago.”

The Williamsburg complex consists of three separate buildings. The striking domed building, one of the city’s earliest designations, received landmark status in 1966 for its exterior and its interior was granted 30 years later.

The center building, on the Driggs Avenue side of the complex, also has an exterior landmark but its interior is not protected, though it may fall under the same restrictions as the dome.

The smaller side building, which includes a parking lot, has no landmark restrictions, but Maddigan has advised buyers to “be conservative” and work with the city throughout any conversion process.

“If there’s going to be activity on the site it’s going ot be on the side building and the parking lot,” said Maddigan. “The only place for residential use is in the smaller of the three buildings and the parking lot. There’s quite a bit of air rights.”

Buyers who approached Maddigan with inquiries proposed converting the domed building into a restaurant, grocery store, banquet hall or lobby for an adjacent residential condo — though the site’s new owner has been cagey about his plans.

Figeruoa did not return calls for comment.

Maddigan would not speculate, but noted that a Trader Joe’s grocery moved into a converted bank in Cobble Hill two years ago.

Borough President Markowitz had hoped that Apple would open a retail computer store to occupy the domed interior, but that didn’t pan out.

“Apple wasn’t interested,” said Maddigan.

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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