Two Trees to Buy Domino?

The Daily News and Crain’s are reporting that CPCR has reached a deal with Two Trees to sell the Domino project for $160 million. CPCR and its partner Isaac Katan bought the Domino site in 2006 for $55 million. Since then, they have rezoned the property for residential use and gotten stuck in a morass of bankruptcy and lawsuits. The sale would allow CPC (the not-for-profit parent of CPCR) to pay off its subsidiary’s mortgages on the property (rumored to be $125 million) and go back to focusing on what they do best, which is providing financing for affordable housing.

If true, this latest development in the Domino saga bodes well for the fate of the overall project – not that that was ever really in question (prime waterfront real estate in a hot gentrifying neighborhood is a rare commodity, and someone was going to build there). Two Trees is an experienced developer that brings a wealth of expertise in developing mixed-use projects, and a long-term commitment to the neighborhoods they go into. It is particularly encouraging news with respect to the landmark refinery building – CPCR never had a viable plan for this wonderful structure and clearly saw its preservation as an impediment rather than an opportunity. Two Trees’ track record with historic buildings – including the stunning renovation of the Wythe Hotel – hopefully means that the refinery will no longer be an afterthought.

But when all is said and done, the New Domino project will be judged on the promises made to the community by CPCR. There was never any question that someone would develop this property. The question, still unanswered, is whether anyone will live up to CPCR’s unsecured promises for massive amounts of affordable housing and other community benefits that too many in the community bought into.

Two Trees is not a developer of affordable housing1 – what does that mean in terms of the promises made to the community? Certainly Two Tree can partner with an experienced affordable housing developer – but how much housing will they build, and how affordable will it be?

1. But then again, neither is CPC – and its for-profit subsidiary, CPCR, never had the depth of experience needed for a project of this scope.