Replacement approved for iconic Watchtower sign in Brooklyn Heights

November 9, 2018

The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals voted on Thursday to allow for a replacement of the iconic ‘Watchtower’ sign in Brooklyn Heights, which was taken down last December. The 15-foot-tall red sign had sat atop the building, which served as the headquarters for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for nearly 50 years. The religious group sold the site at 25-30 Columbia Heights to the Columbia Heights Associates in 2016 and soon after the letters were removed, leaving its framework intact. While originally the Department of Buildings said the sign could not be replaced, the group of developers filed an appeal and won the right to put up new signage in the Brooklyn skyline, as the New York Post reported.

Panorama, Watchtower, Volley Studio

Panorama, Watchtower, Volley Studio
Renderings of Panorama courtesy of Columbia Heights Associates and Volley Studio

The Columbia Heights Associates, which is made up of developers CIM Group and LIVWRK Holdings (Jared Kushner and Kushner Cos. sold their stake in June), paid $340 million for the property. The developers plan to convert the five 19th-century office buildings and warehouses into a 750,000-square-foot mixed-use campus called “Panorama.”

The DOB had denied the developers request to replace the sign, claiming the sign was actually erected illegally. The department said that the “Squibb sign” put up by the E.R. Squibb pharmaceutical company, who owned the building first, and later the Watchtower sign by the Jehovah Witnesses were both illegally installed.

But lawyers for the developers found documents showing the DOB had actually made many approvals for work done to the sign.

“We are appreciative that the BSA confirmed the lawful status of the signage rights at Panorama,” CIM and LIVWRK Holdings told the Post in a statement. “The signage atop this marquee property has been a recognizable feature of the Brooklyn skyline for generations, and this decision affirms that the sign will continue its tradition as a part of the Brooklyn waterfront’s rich history and renewed vibrancy.”

Image courtesy of Susanna Briselli

As of now, it’s not known what the replacement sign will look like. As 6sqft reported last summer, artist Susanna Briselli suggested creating a huge illuminated sign that reads, ‘Brooklyn!’ which she believes would become an “immediate icon.”

While no tenants have been announced for the office complex, the anchor may get to brand the building with its name in lights. In the meantime, as the Post learned, developers will temporarily light the empty space with a sign that says Dumbo or I (Heart) Brooklyn.

[Via NY Post]


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