The Real Deal New York

Karl Fischer Row revisted

One of Williamsburg’s most talked-about blocks of condos holds its own during the neighborhood’s bust--kind of

October 29, 2009
By Gabby Warshawer


Architect Kari Fischer
The string of developments directly across from McCarren Park on Bayard Street, dubbed “Karl Fischer Row,” has been one of the most talked-about blocks of condos in Williamsburg.

All three buildings — 20 Bayard, 30 Bayard and 50 Bayard — went into the ground a few years ago and have been move-in ready for more than a year. But how have the buzzed-about projects fared during the downturn, compared to the rest of this struggling neighborhood?

For all their notoriety in the real estate media and on the blogs (the stretch was nicknamed by the real estate Web site Curbed.com after the prolific architect who designed all the buildings), brokers say only one building there can truly be considered a sales success.

Meanwhile, there are several stalled developments within spitting distance of Karl Fischer Row — some of which were also designed by Fischer — that are much more obvious monuments to Williamsburg’s condo bust.

Indeed, if Williamsburg is now defined by condo corpses on the one hand and early sales success stories on the other, Karl Fischer Row falls somewhere in the middle: a monument to grandiose condo dreams that didn’t quite gel with market reality, particularly after last September, when sales came to a standstill.

Of the three main buildings on the stretch, the 51-unit Aurora at 30 Bayard, which hit the market in early 2006, has performed the best — in part because of its early market entry. Prices in the building ranged from the mid-$500,000s to more than $1 million, and all of the units sold.

Next door, the 48-unit 50 Bayard, known as the Ikon, has had 41 closings, and its current listing broker, Christina Abad of the Corcoran Group, said another unit in the building is in contract. The building hit the market in spring 2007.

The 62-unit 20 Bayard — the last of the three buildings to come to market — has struggled the most. The building, which went on sale in July 2007, had sold the fewest units of the trio before the economic collapse.

Officials at North Development Group, which developed the project, said 25 condos in the building sold. But the firm then switched gears and took the remainder of the building rental.

Still, the marketers say they managed to rent all of those units. The apartments were listed for between $3,400 and $5,900 a month, according to data compiled on StreetEasy.

Elan Padeh, chairman of TDG/
TREGNY, who handled sales at 20 Bayard when he was heading the Developers Group, said his firm stopped selling the building after disagreements with its developer, “mostly over prices.”

David Maundrell, president of Williamsburg-based brokerage apts
andlofts.com, who does a lot of work in Williamsburg but wasn’t involved in the projects on Karl Fischer Row, said he is “surprised” 20 Bayard didn’t have brisker sales.

“It was supposed to be the best building in Williamsburg, and it warranted big numbers,” he said. “What happened?”

The building was frequently mentioned on blogs and in articles last year because contestants on the reality television show “Top Chef” temporarily lived there.

Martin Ehrenfeld, director of marketing and sales for North Development Group, characterizes the building as a success story, despite the fact that it went partly rental.

“On the 25 units we sold, we averaged $860 per square foot, which is in the highest bracket of price per square foot for all of Williamsburg,” Ehrenfeld said. “We chose to stop selling when we felt we couldn’t reach a high enough price per square foot.”

He added, “We had a good enough fallback plan. We can keep the value in the building and service our debt.”

Highlyann Krasnow, the executive vice president of TDG/TREGNY, said 20 Bayard is the only condo in the immediate vicinity “that came to market early and then struggled.” Maundrell said the Aqua at 415 Leonard Street, which has sold all but a few of its 55 units, and the Lotus at 2 Bayard Street, which sold out, had more success around the same time.

Meanwhile, brokers said the remaining seven units at the Ikon did not sell because they are expensive upper-floor units. The most recent listings for Ikon’s penthouses on StreetEasy, which are currently not even on the market, show the units were asking between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Still, in the context of an area that has several buildings within a few blocks that are incomplete and have not recorded sales, the buildings on Karl Fischer Row could have met with much worse fates.

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