Former Gowanus ASCPCA HQ Gets Retail Make-Over

From wounded animals to battered musical instruments, a 104 year old building in Gowanus gets ready for its latest make-over after a $9.5 million sale.

By Jeff Vasishta March 6, 2017

There was a time when Gowanas in Brooklyn was going to the dogs — metaphorically and literally. Not only was its polluted canal, now an EPA Superfund site, a health hazard but it also housed the headquarters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York from 1913 to 1979. Things sure have changed. Development around the canal continues to sell for big numbers and the former animal friendly HQ has just been sold for $9.5 million, DNA Info reports. The developer, MacArthur Holdings, who also owns the Beacon Theater and Hotel on the Upper West Side as well as many other properties citywide, plans to transform it into “unique retail concept.”

Related: Brooklyn’s Gowanus to become one of New York’s hottest neighborhoods

Located at 233 Butler St between Nevins and Bond streets, the 104-year old building which was sold by Cushman & Wakefied, is situated in a manufacturing zone that allows commercial use. It’s unclear what of the original building will remain when the property is remodeled but there are many endearing remnants of its former incarnation. A horse trough (now filled in with cement) still stands in front of the property and a bas-relief sculpture over the main door shows an angel helping abused horses. In 2014 a street artist paid homage to the building’s animal-oriented past by installing a large sculpture of a wolf on the sidewalk. The sculpture was stolen after only a few weeks.

Since its days with the ASPCA the building was, until recently, the home of two pipe organ businesses (one did tuning and repair, one built organs). Part of the building is still occupied by Retrofret Vintage Guitars, which will stay in the building under an agreement with the new owners, Retrofret owner Steve Uhrik said. The latter business built up quite a clientele selling and restoring rare antique instruments. Clients included guitarists g Jack White, Dan Zanes and Bill Kerchin.

Development is currently happening throughout Gowanus. Another developer intends to build a 162-room hotel next door at 255 Butler St and the neighborhood was one of New York’s hottest in 2016 with values rising by 68 percent according to Property Shark which calculated the median home sale price to be $1,213,000. The limited residential housing in the largely manufacturing area is the reason for the meteoric gains.

Related: Gowanus Gentrified: Developer To Turn Old Brooklyn Warehouses Into 200,000 -Sq.Ft. Office Space

In additional a lot of new tech and millennial friendly businesses are opening up shop. Industrie Capital Partners LLC are revamping a building in Gowanus into a 200,000 square-foot multiple-use project. The buildings that were previously owned by the Roulston grocery chain and used as warehouses will now be turned into communal office spaces, retail and restaurants. This has pushed up sale prices for development sites. Alloy Development bought the land for its new offices at 431 Carroll St. for $338 per buildable square foot, “a rare number for land in a manufacturing zone,” noted a November report by GFI Realty Services.

Real estate firm Street Easy predicts continued price growth for Gowanus in 2017 after ranking it number 7 on its list of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. The first residential development opened last year at of 365 Bond St. with more in the works after a rezoning plan to turn manufacturing in residential use land.  While many may bemoan the gentrification and loss of ethnic minorities in the area along with the feel good factor of helping badly treated animals, few would long for the crime, drugs and prostitution and pollution of the neighborhood’s bad old days.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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