Jed Walentas Expands His Brooklyn Empire
by c. j. hughes
Jed Walentas takes a spin on Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo
Jed Walentas has wanderlust. After years of helping rebuild Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, or “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” the 37-year-old is striking out in new directions with a slew of buzzed-about projects. His Two Trees Management Company, which was founded by his father, David Walentas in 1968, has partially opened Mercedes House, a sloping, Z-shaped 900-unit rental-condo with a similarly named luxury car dealership at its base on Manhattan’s West Side, with phase two slated to open this month.
Over in Williamsburg, the curtain has also risen on the Wythe Hotel, a 72-room rehabilitation of an old brick-and-timber barrel factory, where rooms start at less than $200 a night. And Fort Greene is also now in Walentas’ sights, as design plans ramp up for a mixed-use project near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “We’re very, very proud of what we’ve accomplished with Dumbo, but I feel like a lot of our work there is complete,” says Walentas, who lives in Soho with wife, Kate Engelbrecht, a photographer, and Theo, their year-old son. “We firmly believe a rising tide lifts all boats.”
From a rundown collection of half-empty box warehouses, Dumbo has become a leafy, vibrant hub. Among the dozen-plus buildings Two Trees owns, which occupy the majority of a 16-block area, are hundreds of apartments that offer can’t-look-away skyline views, including One Main Street’s for-sale Clocktower triplex, listed at $19 million, which is likely now Brooklyn’s priciest real estate.
Narrow stone streets are packed with a high-end mix of spas, furniture showrooms, flower shops, wine stores, and kids’ boutiques. Also, Halcyon, a record shop (yes, vinyl), and eye-catching public art, like the colorful abstracted New York City train track mural on a Front Street fence, pay tribute to the era when only artists were there. Whimsy comes from a 1922 carousel, rescued from the Midwest in the 1980s (around the time David started putting his stamp on the area) and slowly nursed back to life, which began spinning again last fall.
Peppering sentences with “datum,” Jed holds forth about how New York’s 1898 consolidation stifled Brooklyn’s investment and economic activity. He attended Penn, where he balanced the study of economics with a gig as sports editor at the paper. But the Ivy League seems far away from his office, where exposed pipes run overhead, and his uniform is running shoes, jeans, and a black hooded sweatshirt. “I’m definitely casual,” he jokes, “maybe to a fault.”
photography by gregg delman