Brooklyn Heights is reaching new peaks. Sure, this affluent neighborhood — the city’s first historic district located across the East River from Lower Manhattan — has long been home to stately brownstones and co-ops. But a stock of new developments will thrust the area into its next chapter.
The Brooklyn Trust Company — a 12-unit condominium conversion at 138 Pierrepont St. where prices now run $3.2 to $4.2 million — should see its first closing this month.
Across the neighborhood, the ground-up 106-unit Pierhouse condo in Brooklyn Bridge Park also starts closings this summer — with remaining units priced from $2.9 to $11.19 million. The five-unit, Morris Adjmi-designed 70 Henry St. condo is also gearing up for a sales launch this fall.
Notice a pattern? Brooklyn Heights traditionally had a dearth of condos. Not only is this area heavily landmarked (it’s generally tough to build new in historic districts), but it’s also had few buildable lots.
Now, developers are filling this market void — as well as luring buyers in search of spiffy new pads — by making condos more available than ever before. And they’re doing it largely through conversions.
“I think Brooklyn Heights reached its peak in co-op potential, but it didn’t have a condominium marketplace — and that has room to grow,” says Stephen Kliegerman, president of Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing, which handles sales and marketing at the Brooklyn Trust.
And builders aren’t missing a beat.
A total of 294 condominium units are in some stage of Brooklyn Heights’ development pipeline, according to Halstead Property Development Marketing.
Sources attribute the activity to the 435-unit One Brooklyn Bridge Park condo conversion. This project launched in 2008 and saw quick sales even during the recession, which helped fuel future projects. A $23.88 million penthouse listing here stands to crush a borough condo record if it sells for that price.
A far newer neighborhood conversion is The Standish, at 171 Columbia Heights. DDG — along with Westbrook Partners — is designing and transforming the address, originally The Standish Arms Hotel, into a 32-unit condo. Prices are not available, but many homes will look out to views of the Manhattan skyline.
“This affords the ability to have a family-sized apartment on one floor,” says Joe McMillan, DDG’s Chairman and CEO, “Because Brooklyn Heights has traditionally been a single-family home market.”
He’s not joking. There are 11 townhouses (mostly single-family) currently listed in Brooklyn Heights averaging of $7.68 million, according to brokerage MNS.
Beyond value, neighborhood condos offer tremendous long-term investment potential. For new-development units, Brooklyn Heights’ closed sales have soared 79.8 percent to an average $1,602 per square foot since January 2014, according to HPDM. By comparison, nearby Boerum Hill, which also has a host of new condos, saw that same figure rise 42.7 percent to an average $1,452 per square foot during that same time.
While developers are bullish on condos, some area residents are far less sanguine.
Take Pier 6, a grassy area at the south end of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Their Corporation board just approved controversial plans for two buildings to rise on empty parcels never intended for park use. A 28-story tower will reportedly house 126 market-rate condos, while a 14-story build will have 140 rental units — 100 for affordable housing.
Despite the park board’s insistence that real estate is crucial to financially maintain the greenspace, project opponents are fuming.
“Do our parks get consumed for funding other city services?” says Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, whose group is working with attorneys on legal challenges to the approval.
However, park officials insist real estate will keep Brooklyn Bridge Park alive.
“By moving ahead with the final — and essential — component of our funding model, we have ensured that a $400 million public investment [will be] enjoyed by millions,” says Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer.
Meanwhile, City Council-approved plans to redevelop a Brooklyn Public Library branch at 280 Cadman Plaza West into a 36-story tower with 139 condos, a new library space and off-site affordable housing hit a snag this month. An advocacy group named Love Brooklyn Libraries sued to block the $52 million sale of the site to development firm Hudson Companies.
“There were a lot of eyes on this project — it was probably one of the most transparent … projects the city has ever seen,” says Hudson principal David Kramer.
Despite the isolated controversies, activity remains high — and not just for condos. A 19-story, 62-unit rental building at 172 Montague St. opened to tenants last summer — the first ground-up rental in Brooklyn Heights to debut since 1999, which Town Marketing and Leasing fully leased up.
Condos still comprise the lion’s share of new offerings. There’s also 70 Henry St. This development is jointly developed by Mettle Property Group and JMH Development. Prices aren’t yet available.
Of course, there are other winning factors. One of them is transportation; eight subway lines zoom through the neighborhood. Park space also never hurts.
“You can spend the day strolling from playgrounds to volleyball courts, soccer pitches, and enjoy the gorgeous view too,” says Emily Fisher, an associate broker at Stribling & Associates, who’s handled deals in the area, of the waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park.
If there’s been one drawback over the years, it’s the dining scene, but change is afoot. The newly opened Beasts & Bottles on Atlantic Avenue serves up Provence-style rotisserie plates and pours French wines. The 75-seat bar Le Boudoir recently opened underneath the popular French bistro Chez Moi just down the road.
Given its accessibility and charm, it’s no wonder Brooklyn Heights is popular among families, which brought Carmen Tortorelli to snag a co-op here in December.
She worked with Corcoran’s Lisa and Christina Lonuzzi to find the space, which has crown moldings and a windowed kitchen. (She currently shares it with her daughter, Lauren Grech, and son-in-law.)
But most of all, she enjoys the area’s safety and playgrounds, which make it a great place for her grandchildren to grow.
“You feel like you are in a true neighborhood,” she says.