The Domino Sugar Factory Deal: $160 Million and a Waterfront View


If you’ve ever drove/ran/biked across the Williamsburg Bridge, you have probably seen the Domino Sugar factory.

The pre-Civil-War industrial building used to be the largest sugar refinery in the world; now, its worn-down streaks are covered with bright graffiti and its drabness is reminiscent of some weird byproduct of the Industrial Revolution from a Charles Dickens’s novel. And it might be the newest property to be chewed up by an ever-expanding Waterfront.

According to the New York Daily News, a DUMBO company called Two Trees Management Group – known for its emphasis on the start-up tech scene in the Brooklyn enclave – might be buying the property for $160 million in a deal that blows the hinges off the Williamsburg craze.

What’s better than one towering condo on the East River?

(Here’s the answer: many, many more).

As of now, the deal is in the preliminary phase and Two Trees has signed the first term sheet to follow through with the transaction. But, as Biggie pointed out years ago, more money brings more problems: a small feud has broken out between the co-owners of the 12-acre property, Katan Group and an affordable housing organization known as Community Preservation Company (CPC).

Apparently, the latter cut the deal without telling the executives at Katan. And Katan is already in the process of suing CPC for its mismanagement of the property’s finances. The two companies bought the property in 2005 for $55 million and Katan is now arguing that the true worth of the property is $200 million. Because, you know, $160 million is cutting it a little thin.

Regardless of the price tag, one must weigh the pros and cons of a deal like this. What does the Domino factory bring to the area? In terms of tangible benefits, nothing really besides its aesthetic charm for those into the nostalgic Gangs of New York look. But, in a time when real estate developers are dying to chop Williamsburg up into a cost-benefit success, that longing for a rugged Five Points version of New York cannot stand up to the power of the dollar.

With that being said, let us look to what Two Trees has accomplished. One of its claims to fame is the deal that brought the handmade obsession that is Etsy to DUMBO – a rags-to-riches start-up that Bloomberg heralds, along with Tumblr, as proof that New York will be the next Silicon Valley.

Although this statement is still up for debate, one thing is for certain: start-ups translate into jobs as Etsy has become one of the biggest employers in that area. If we’re basing our analysis on this example, that 12 acres could turn into an incubator of wealth for the Brooklyn scene. Thumbs up for employment.

Well, if the deal does go through, we can confirm this: Smorgasburg, the weekly foodie event on the Waterfront that we all know and love, just got much more breathing room.