Mazdack Rassi discovered, invested early and played a key role in the development of the burgeoning Meatpacking District in 1997, when he and two partners launched Milk Studios, a hub for fashion, photography, film and music.
This story first appeared in the May 22, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Rassi and his partner Erez Shternlicht are set to make waves in another environ: Industry City, a complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where Camp David, a 40,000-square-foot membership-based coworking facility opening Saturday, could grow to 300,000 square feet if the partners decide to expand across the property, which they plan to do over the next few years.
The project offers thoughtfully designed private offices, shared desks and conference rooms for creative, business and tech entrepreneurs and freelancers, who are uninspired by WeWorks or find SoHo House’s party atmosphere not conducive to brainstorming or dealmaking.
“We’ve been scoping out Industry City for a while. We knew the area was going to be the next Red Hook or Gowanus. This is a new frontier. Red Hook is on fire. Red Hook just announced a ferry stop. We hope to be next,” said Rassi, referring to the South Brooklyn route of the citywide ferry, which on June 1 will connect Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Red Hook and Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street.
“We want Camp David to be cross-disciplined,” Rassi said. “We hope to attract every kind of industry. We were originally targeting start-ups, but we also want people in the creative industries. We want people to make things here. We have to allow people to get dirty and make things with their hands.”
A maker’s studio will feature photo and video studios, edit bays and cutting tables where designers can make samples. “We have a designer who said she’d like a sewing machine and a steamer,” Rassi said, adding that tools will be added as requested by tenants.
Camp David is not without risks. Rassi is anticipating Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s Made in New York proposal blocks away with industrial facilities for garment manufacturers. De Blasio announced a $136 million investment in the project, which is expected to open in 2020. But the plan is controversial. Some garment industry officials are wary of the government’s goal of shifting manufacturing to Brooklyn and there are alternate proposals aimed at keeping the Garment Center in Midtown.
“I hope Made in New York will be a success and keep light manufacturing here,” Rassi said. “There will be a lot of synergies between Made and Camp David.”
The building is part of a family of buildings called Industry City, with 6.5 million square feet of former warehouse and factory space.
Camp David’s vibe is a throwback to a time of solid values and reliable career paths. “The branding, and name Camp David were inspired by the ‘Mad Men’ era, when people cared about their work life,” he said. “Camp David is [set] within a time frame when the government was sexy and everyone wanted to work for it. It was the late Fifties and Sixties.”
Rassi and architect David Sullivan highlighted the industrial elements, while emphasizing the scale and outsize proportions of common areas. In the massive lobby, a concierge desk, clusters of seating areas and cafe, are framed by cement columns.
Rassi, who lived in Champlain, Ill., said Frank Lloyd Wright inspired the floor-to-ceiling maple bookcases framed in white marble that are the focal point of the lobby. “Those big, solid libraries had a calming effect on me,” he said. “It was the Heartland of America.”
There’s a library and lounge areas with soft seating on the fifth floor coworking area. “We wanted the conference rooms to look like board rooms,” Rassi said of the solid maple tables and marble-topped credenzas. “It’s not a veneer. We’re going thick with white marble. We wanted offices where you can stretch and not touch the person next to you.”
Rents range from $700 a month for an assigned desk to $1,500 per month, the starting price for a private office. Amenities include a deck and courtyard and fitness center and yoga studios. Junior memberships will be extended to students.
Camp David has a “long, long-term lease,” Rassi said. “We’re in partnership with Jamestown, [which is leading Industry City’s redevelopment with partners]. Erez and I are investors as well. We have some of our own skin in it. The goal is to expand to other locations in the future. I’d like to do something in the Manhattan or Los Angeles, where we go a lot.”