United American Land has spent nearly $76M over 22 years buying parcels on Brooklyn block
By Adam Pincus
The Laboz family’s United American Land is quietly assembling an enormous development site in the booming Downtown Brooklyn market. The firm has spent $75.8 million since 1996 buying 12 buildings on a single block that includes frontage on Fulton Street, an analysis of city property records found.
The most recent purchase was a four-building package United American Land acquired from retail investor Jeff Sutton for $22 million, which had not been previously reported.
The company now controls buildings that would allow for 376,670 square feet of development on the block bounded by Fulton, Jay, Willoughby and Lawrence streets, the analysis found. The remaining challenge is that all the properties are not contiguous. There are five sets of properties, but those are separated from one another by 12 other buildings scattered on the block, owned by 10 separate owners.
Albert Laboz declined to comment for this article. One source familiar with the deal called it a development play, but another said the buildings could operate as stand-alone retail assets for years.
Downtown Brooklyn is undergoing a rapid transformation, with thousands of new residential apartments being built and the Fulton Mall itself slowly changing, with more successful or higher end retailers replacing the likes of Payless ShoeSource.
United American Land is one of the major development firms in the neighborhood, having built 505 Fulton Street with tenant H&M and repositioned the landmarked 503 Fulton Street with tenants that now include Nordstrom Rack and T.J. Maxx, among other projects.
The Fulton Mall has been a robust retail zone for decades, said broker Timothy King of CPEX Real Estate. But the enormous growth of residential development has altered the zone in recent years.
“What we see today is a broader range of services and a broader range of retailers. A movement to more national and upscale as opposed to dollar stores and shoe stores,” he said.
The Laboz family is steeped in retail and residential property ownership and development, concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Brothers Albert, Jody and Jason are the sons of retailer and real estate investor Jack Laboz, and the three now lead UAL. The firm owns more 60 properties, with a concentration of holdings in or near Soho, but other holdings scattered around the city.
This assemblage does not appear to be complete, and UAL is familiar with the long game. Two blocks away the family sold a dozen parcels assembled mostly in the 1980s, to AvalonBay Communities for $125 million in 2012. There, Avalon built a 826-unit residential tower which opened in 2015.
In addition the family is active in civic and business functions, for example Albert is the chair of the Fulton Mall Improvement Association.
As for the current assemblage, UAL bought its first property on that block in 1996, paying $2.5 million for 395 Jay Street, a 12,520 square foot retail building. The next purchase was nine years later, when UAL paid Emmes Asset Management $12 million for 447 Fulton Street, an adjacent building just south, that makes the corner of Jay and Fulton.
The next burst of activity came in rapid succession. UAL paid $1.7 million for 54 Willoughby in 2006; then in 2008 paid $2.16 million for 144 Lawrence Street (and an additional payment of $2.1 million a few months later), and $5.5 million for the adjacent 146 Lawrence Street.
Then another lull, and in 2013 UAL paid $1.8 million for 140 Lawrence, then in 2013 an entity registered to a law firm UAL has used in the past paid $15 million for 134-136 Lawrence Street; and in 2017 UAL paid $11 million for 44 Willoughby Street.
The next and so far latest purchases were those from Jeff Sutton. 457 Fulton for $3.5 million, 465 Fulton for $3.5 million and 459-461 Fulton for $15 million.
The Summary: Downtown Brooklyn might get another tower along Fulton Street, further altering the character of Fulton Mall.
The Follow: Are any owners on the block under pressure to sell? How much of a premium to market will a potential developer pay? Can UAL start developing with what they have now?