Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing
NEW YORKERS have been rediscovering a small neighborhood in Brooklyn called the Columbia Street Waterfront District — and so have the real estate developers.
The opening of Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park last spring, and the recent completion of a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along Columbia Street, part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway that will link north and south Brooklyn, have drawn visitors to the waterfront.
There, home buyers and renters will find a mix of row houses, urban renewal buildings, and a growing stock of new and recently developed condominiums.
A slice of about two dozen square blocks, cut off from the rest of the borough by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the Columbia waterfront has been seen as an up-and-coming neighborhood. But development has come in fits and starts because of its location, the forbidding warehouses and piers that block harbor access, and a lack of subway lines.
“This particular location — we’ve liked it since Day 1,” said Louis V. Greco, the general manager of the development company SDS, which bought two parcels in the neighborhood in 2008. “That’s because of the views of Lower Manhattan, obviously, and there’s just so much going on down there now.”
In late September, SDS began marketing a development with 37 condominiums on one of those parcels, called 100 Congress. Because of the recession’s pressure, the developer had planned to sell the other parcel, at the corner of Columbia and Warren Streets, but recently decided not to.
“There’s a market out there again,” he said. The second development will have only 12 apartments, and all but one will be three-bedrooms. Mr. Greco said the interest thus far in 100 Congress, where nearly half the units are three-bedrooms, has been from families. Other real estate agents in the Columbia waterfront area said they too had noticed its growing appeal to young families. Almost the entire neighborhood falls into the zones for Public Schools 29 and 58, which are both highly regarded. There are also organizations that offer children’s programs, along with a series of small parks and playgrounds, including the popular one at Pier 6, which has 1.6 acres of play areas and a “water lab.”
“When my family first moved to the area in 2005, there was a big kind of hipster element to it,” said Tina Fallon, an agent with the brokerage Realty Collective, whose office is on Columbia Street. “What we’re seeing now is an increasing number of people who are interested in what are called family-size apartments.”
One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a 449-unit condominium complex just north of the district, has also helped raise the profile of the area, particularly by helping to subsidize park construction.
Frank Galeano, a local real estate broker, built a small development with three apartments at 82 Union Street a year ago and units rented quickly, he said. “The market is back quite a bit,” Mr. Galeano said, estimating that a two-bedroom apartment rents on average for about $2,200 a month. “It’s not quite the level it was before the recession, but we’re seeing a lot of activity.”
Along with 100 Congress, several other projects are coming to fruition. Columbia Commons, at 110 Warren Street, is the largest, with 42 condos, and in the beginning of October, after four months on the market, about half its units were under contract, according to Halstead Property Development Marketing, which is handling the listing. Prices for the remaining apartments ranged from $420,000 to $685,000 for one- and two-bedrooms; the remaining three-bedroom is listed for $935,000.
One of the most prolific Columbia waterfront developers, Marshall Sohne, pulled his plans for a 10-story tower at 211-213 Columbia Street and instead plans to build eight experimental green condominiums and four mews houses. While he was prepared to finance the project himself, he said, bankers showed unexpected faith in the market. “We’re going to get bank financing, which I’m surprised at,” Mr. Sohne said.
Another developer, Barrett Design and Development, is converting a former macaroni factory at 25 Carroll Street into 17 condominiums, and principals are confident enough in the market to sell from plans, with only one model unit, said Lindsay Barton Barrett, a broker at the Corcoran Group.
Ms. Barrett said that Barrett Design, founded by her husband, Alex, has completed five other developments, all of them in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood from which the Columbia waterfront was sliced. Since June 2009, “the market’s been very strong” in Carroll Gardens, Ms. Barrett said. “It just largely has been a function of there being very little supply.”
Ms. Barrett said that she hoped market strength would extend to the Columbia waterfront, where prices historically have been lower — in recent years, about 20 percent — and that 25 Carroll Street would be priced accordingly.
Mr. Greco says price difference is minimized when a development is on a street like Congress that crosses over the expressway. At 100 Congress, SDS did ultimately decide to develop less-expensive three-bedroom apartments than first envisioned in 2008, but prices are still comparable to similar properties in Cobble Hill, Mr. Greco said.
One-bedrooms range from $350,000 to $390,000; two-bedrooms, $620,000 to $750,000; the range for three-bedrooms is $825,000 to $925,000; and there is one penthouse for $1.5 million, he said.
Ms. Fallon says one of the biggest changes she’s noticed is that she no longer has to sell the neighborhood to buyers as a low-cost alternative to Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.
“We’re seeing people in our real estate work who say, ‘I want to be on this side of the B.Q.E.,’ ” Ms. Fallon said.
Friday, October 22, 2010