The Real Deal New York

If they build it, will buyers come?

November 01, 2004
By Alison Gregor

Residential developers may have converged on Downtown Brooklyn, but it remains to be seen if buyers will put the neighborhood on the map.

Marilyn Donahue, a broker of Brooklyn properties since 1967, now with Douglas Elliman, believes they may.

“It’s a very good question,” she said. “You’d really have to look at the statistics to see how much residential is going in and where it’s located, because if it’s located at Boerum Hill, there’s no problem.”

Donahue said she believes in a rising tide theory, because all the contiguous communities in Brooklyn are bleeding into one another and ending Downtown’s isolation as a dowdy commercial zone.

“All the neighborhoods are beginning to link, so one could walk from Brooklyn Heights into Metrotech into Fort Greene/Clinton Hill,” she said. “It’s very easy.”

But brokers may have their work cut out for them.

Jeff Tartikoff, 35, began looking for an apartment in Brooklyn with his girlfriend last spring. The couple had a preference for Brooklyn Heights or Cobble Hill, but they were willing to look at apartments in Concord Village, a postwar complex of seven buildings with co-ops and a limited number of rentals just northeast of Tillary and Adams Streets. A one-bedroom apartment was then renting for about $1,600 a month.

“It was a pretty cheap apartment,” Tartikoff said. “That was the reason we even went to go look at it.”

But Tartikoff’s girlfriend wasn’t comfortable with the area. “I personally don’t think it’s true, but she felt less safe,” Tartikoff said. “It’s not as neighborhood-y over there.”

The couple felt the apartments were a bit “on the older side,” he said, so they eventually opted for a one-bedroom apartment on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights for just under $2,000 a month.

Tartikoff said that, while apartment hunting, he had learned online that residential development was going on in the Metrotech area, but that didn’t interest the couple.

“It really wasn’t the area that we wanted to focus on,” he said, though he admitted that they would have been pleased with Park Slope and its lower prices if the commute wasn’t so lengthy.

So what will attract buyers to Downtown Brooklyn? Price is always important, and can often be the deciding factor for pioneering types.

William S. Ross, executive director of sales for Halstead Brooklyn, said the price of co-ops and condominiums per square foot in Downtown Brooklyn is about $550 and up, and housing stock comprises apartment buildings and some limited brownstones.

A one-bedroom co-op can be had for $325,000 to $500,000, and a two-bedroom for $550,000 to $900,000. Yet price may not be the biggest draw, especially when Brooklyn prices are now only a hairsbreadth lower than those in Manhattan.

Potential buyers may also weigh planned commercial development, such as the construction of an arena for the Nets basketball team proposed by Metrotech developer Bruce Ratner for the southeast of Downtown Brooklyn.

That “location, location, location” is real estate’s oldest clich doesn’t make it any less true. There’s plentiful subway access (though limited parking), available shopping and proximity to Smith Street restaurants, in addition to the area’s newfound cachet.

“The whole place, it’s like a jewel,” Donahue said. “It’s all brand new, and everything is coming up. I think every new development is going to bring a Manhattan price.”

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