In 2012, little more than three years after its April 2009 founding, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, basking in rapid growth and a $10 million boost from venture capital investors, agreed to spend $7.5 million to buy and renovate part of the landmarked Eberhard Faber pencil factory complex in Greenpoint.
“We are hoping to stay at 58 Kent [Street] forever — to be our permanent headquarters,” Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen told Community Board 1, according to the New York Post.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission hailed the adaptive re-use design by architect Ole Sondresen, with Scott Henson, which remodeled the remains of three connected 19th century factory buildings, which had been demolished above the second floor in the 20th century, and combined three facades, which had two truck bays installed.
Upon the revamped building’s opening, Kickstarter and its then-80 employees held a block party, closing off Kent Street to demonstrate some projects crowdfunded via the platform, and offering tours of their workspace.
“Kickstarter’s New Office Is Incredible,” pronounced Business Insider in May 2014, citing the building’s inner courtyard, garden, and library.
Indeed, the adaptation included a new one-story rooftop addition, an interior glass courtyard, and new windows, with Corten steel perimeter framing, which replaced a bricked-up facade. The new HQ offered not just office space but also a library, kitchen, gallery, and theater, using significant amounts of reclaimed wood.
Layoffs and closing
Three months later, Kickstarter announced that the COVID downturn in fundraising forced it to lay off 25 workers. The Verge reported that the total, including buyouts, was 30 people, out of nearly 140 staff; the union cited the severance package it negotiated.
As work-from-home became the norm, and 58 Kent was mercilessly tagged by graffiti vandals, Kickstarter in 2021 decided to become a fully remote company.
Last April, Kickstarter, then with nearly 100 employees, announced it was joining several other firms testing a 32-hour, four-day workweek. This January, it said it was making the Monday-through-Thursday schedule permanent.
Chief Strategy Officer Jon Leland told Benefit News that the policy was helping with recruitment and retention. That pivot supplants the old strategy—offering a purpose-built headquarters in an atmospheric North Brooklyn neighborhood.
Building for sale
Today, 58 Kent is being marketed by B6 Real Estate Advisors as a “custom-built flagship office building,” containing 30,000 square feet of space, half a block from Franklin Street, “one of Greenpoint’s most desirable retail corridors.”
Citing the “exceptional natural light provided by a central, glassed-in courtyard garden,” B6 says the “property redefines the concept of going to the office, with open-air worktables, private offices, glass meeting rooms, a 2,500 square foot library, a 74-seat theater, an open-air commercial kitchen, diner-style kitchen seating, tiered wooden bleachers, and a glass penthouse” that leads to a “lushly landscaped” rooftop garden.
Still, Brooklyn office space had a 17.8% vacancy rate, as of the fourth quarter of 2022, according to Newmark, and the landmarked Domino Sugar building in Williamsburg is being transformed into a 460,000-square-foot office building, without an anchor tenant.
So, mindful of that challenging market, B6 notes that “the property and zoning would permit conversion to an event venue, retail, gallery, or showroom, or virtually any other commercial use.”
And if the building sells anywhere near the asking price, it might represent a tidy profit for Kickstarter (even if the renovation costs exceeded the original budget), little more than a decade—and a world-changing pandemic—after the company’s stated aspiration of “forever.”