Woolworth’s building sold to boutique hotelier Neil Bender

The handbill-slathered façade of the old Woolworth’s. (photo by Dan Barton)

The former Woolworth’s building on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston, bought for $475,000 less than three years ago, has just sold for $2.25 million. The sale by 311 partners LLC to another consortium led by Manhattan real estate magnate Neil Bender, who is working on a project to remake the school district’s headquarters building into a boutique hotel, leaves the future of a proposed food hall and natural food market at the Woolworth’s unclear.

According to county property records, the sale of the building at 311 Wall St. closed on Feb. 6 when 311 Partners LLC signed over the deed to another entity, 311 Wall Street LLC, for the sum of $2,225,000. 311 Partners LLC is a Katonah-based real estate development group fronted by Zach Lewis; 311 Wall Street, meanwhile, appears to be a subsidiary of William Gottlieb Real Estate, a Bender-headed New York City-based developer with extensive holdings in lower Manhattan.

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Lewis and 311 Partners purchased the long-vacant former Woolworth’s building in the heart of the Stockade District for just $475,000 back in July 2015. Since then, according to a recent application for a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the company has invested $1 million in repairs and upgrades.

Initial plans for the building called for the creation of a “food hall” hosting six or more small eateries in the half of the building fronting Wall Street and a natural food market in the section fronting on Crown Street. The basement of the 35,000 square foot building would be given over to community kitchen and food production space.

A separate entity, BBG Ventures LLC, with Lewis and marketing specialist Ben Giardullo as partners, was formed to open and operate the food hub as a tenant of 311 Partners. In their Pilot application, Lewis and Giardullo predicted that the food hub would create at least 55 new full time jobs in the city. Lewis declined to comment on the sale. Giardullo could not be reached for comment.

New owner Bender has begun to invest heavily in Uptown Kingston’s red-hot real estate market after beginning his expansion out of the Manhattan market with investments in northern Dutchess County. Bender’s firm already owns 317 Wall St., a long-vacant office building adjacent to the former Woolworth’s. Last July, a Bender-affiliated company put in a $4.2 million winning bid on the Cioni Building at 61 Crown St., currently the headquarters of the Kingston City School District. (The district would later shave $781,000 off of the price, citing “environmental issues.”) Bender has indicated that he intends to turn the building into a boutique hotel.

Mayor Steve Noble has used the proposed food hub as evidence of economic growth in Uptown Kingston in the city’s successful application for a $10 million state “Downtown Revitalization Initiative” grant.

On Tuesday, Noble said that he was aware of the Woolworth’s sale. But, Noble said, he believed the food hub would occupy the space under a lease with the new owner.

“I have not talked to [Lewis] and his folks,” said Noble. “But my understanding, from what I’ve heard is that the food hub is still moving forward and they are seeking final funding.”

There are 2 comments

  1. Susan

    This is an example of the kind of sales and flipping of properties that leads to hypergentrification and the displacement of Kingston residents making under 6-figure salaries. Is this really what the people of Kingston need or want?

  2. Kate

    I agree with you Susan. It’s all downhill from here. First of all, boutique hotel? Seriously? Where are those folks going to park? And we certainly don’t need any more places to eat. For God’s sake. Poor uptown. Poor Mayor. It’s all happening right under his nose and he’s doing nothing about it. Goodbye charming Kingston. Grab the sweetness of uptown while you can. I’m so glad I moved downtown.

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