THE 4 FOOD GROUPS – May 2006

THE 4 FOOD GROUPS 2006-05-01 Staff Writer <strong>RETAIL<br /> Go directly to jail, do not pass go</strong><br /> Downtown Brooklyn may be a hot location for real estate these days, but residents may not have realized just how hot it was until recently: The city is currently thinkin

Go directly to jail, do not pass go

Downtown Brooklyn may be a hot location for real estate these days, but residents may not have realized just how hot it was until recently: The city is currently thinking about turning part of an area jail into a retail and apartment complex. Some city officials have suggested that a portion of the Brooklyn House of Detention, a 10-story cross-shaped tower surrounded by razor wire in downtown Brooklyn, be converted into shops, restaurants and possibly even apartments.

The prison was built in 1957 but closed in 2003 after declining crime rates allowed the city to close a number of jails. The building is a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge on Atlantic Avenue, an area once known for its squalor but today known for its fancy boutiques and restaurants.

City authorities say the land the prison occupies is now too valuable to let it go to waste. Correction Commissioner Martin Horn wants to turn the 24,000 square feet of space on the jail’s ground floor into retail space, while returning prisoners to the upstairs.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has a different idea. He wants to raze the 800-bed jail and build a more efficient jail at the back of the lot, hidden behind a new building that would house both retail and residences.

However the prison isn’t exactly crumbling. It underwent major renovations recently, and the Department of Correction has stressed that it may need to reoccupy it suddenly at any time if the prison population rises.

The idea of combining retail and prison space is not completely unprecedented. In the mid-1980s the city was able to build a jail on White Street in Chinatown only by promising nearby residents that it would build a three-story commercial complex under the 500-cell jail, as well as an 11-story housing tower for the elderly next door.

You won’t miss the Swiss

If you’re looking to expatriate yourself any time soon, you may want to take a look at Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s latest “quality of living” survey. Out of 350 cities, Zurich, Switzerland came out on top. Wartorn Baghdad, Iraq came in last. The survey ranks the quality of 350 cities based on political and social environment, crime, schools and other factors. It is used by human resources departments to decide whether an employee sent abroad is entitled to a hardship allowance. Almost half of the top 30 scoring cities are in Western Europe, while Eastern European cities continued to move up several spaces. Honolulu and San Francisco were the two highestranked US cities, at 27th and 28th, respectively. Most US cities remained stagnant or dropped, with the exception of Chicago which moved up 11 places. In Asia, Singapore was the highest ranked city at 34th. The survey acknowledges that the rankings do not take into account a city’s “spice,” which makes some people want to move to cities like New York, Tokyo or Paris, all of which scored relatively poorly.

Pity housing for hedge funds

Former Refco executive Edward Chin is providing cheap office space for young hedge funds and private equity managers in Hong Kong. Chin says the rise in commercial rents in Hong Kong has made it difficult for fledgling investors to set up shop or maintain their offices in the city. So Chin decided to do something about it. The former head of Asia for Refco Alternative Investments is about to complete the 1,500 square-foot MDE Hedge Fund Centre on Wyndham Street. The location is the former administration office of the Foreign Correspondents Club. The first fund to move in to the new building will most likely be a $20-billion private equity fund from Montreal. Chin says his goal is to help these newbies reduce start-up costs by providing cheaper, Bgrade commercial space. Chin is also thinking about launching a similar Hedge Fund Center around the corner at Hollywood Road, or possibly building one in Singapore.

Big markets get big boxes

In the world of real estate investing, location seems to be everything these days. And according to recent research by CBRE/Torto Wheaton, although many markets across the country are experiencing strong industrial demand, the big distribution markets—Chicago; Atlanta; Riverside, Los Angeles; and Houston—still account for about one-third of all new demand. The research further found that the “big boxes,” enormous new warehouses larger than 400,000 square feet, are mostly being built in the three largest distribution centers: Atlanta, Chicago and Riverside. With overall national demand for warehouse space growing at only 2.6 percent, the growth of the big boxes, which in Riverside have increased occupied square footage by 33 percent since 2000, is looking very healthy.