By Sarah Trefethen
Brooklyn’s uber-polluted Gowanus Canal is filled with such a mysterious cocktail of substances that the New York Daily News a few years ago reported on a scientist who was searching below its frothy surface for a cure to AIDS.
But David Lichtenstein, CEO and chairman of the Lightstone Group, can see past sewage overflow and 150 years of industrial waste.
“It’s going to be the Brooklyn Rivera,” he told members of the YM/WREA at the monthly luncheon meeting this week. “You just have to use your imaginations.”
The Environmental Protection agency plans to spend $506 million cleaning up the canal, and Lightstone Group has broken ground on a 700-unit rental complex on the banks of the superfund site.
Brooklyn has become a brand known around the world, Lichtenstein said, and he predicted that in ten years’ time the area around the canal will feature cobblestone walkways and an old-world feel — the kind of place, he said, where you might not be surprised to encounter Sherlock Holmes. He also compared the Gowanus of the future to Chelsea’s wildly successful High Line Park, but with a river running through the middle.
Lichtenstein didn’t mention a timeline for the building’s construction, but the EPA’s cleanup project is reportedly going to take 10 years. What the developer did say is that when the building is open for rental, he expects to command rents of $50 per square foot.
Lightstone Group got its start developing outlet malls and hotels around the country and has recently had success in the New York multifamily market with the 199-unit Gantry Park Landing in Long Island City, Queens.
The company is expanding and looking to hire new talent, according to Lichtenstein. “Successful companies distinguish themselves by finding something new,” he said.