Waking up Wythe
<em>TRD</em> maps out the dramatic transformation of the fast-changing Williamsburg stretch
For better or for worse, few neighborhoods were more transformed by the last development boom than Williamsburg.
Sparked by the area’s sweeping 2005 rezoning, the long-time middle-class manufacturing district traded its warehouses for glassy apartments and became the go-to neighborhood for post-college arrivals. First Bedford Avenue got a makeover, and then the waterfront. Now, the once-gritty Wythe Avenue is having its moment, with new rentals, hotels and restaurants popping up — and in a sign reminiscent of the Meatpacking District, black town cars line some blocks on weekend nights.
But the 20-block heart of Wythe Avenue — from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Greenpoint border — reveals that the transition hasn’t always been smooth. Some projects that stalled during the recession are still empty pits, even as others have resumed. “What’s happening is incredible,” said Andrew Barrocas, the CEO of brokerage MNS, which has two offices nearby. “Wythe is filling in the gaps.” Below is a look at some of the properties that are transforming the stretch.
390 Wythe Avenue
Built in the late 1800s, the former Matchett Candy Factory was once an art gallery. But in 2011, Caro Enterprises converted it into a 69-unit rental called Wythe Confectionery, which includes studios to two-bedroom units. Those studios started at $1,850 a month when the building opened three years ago, according to news reports. Today, according to StreetEasy, they start at $2,600.
373 Wythe Avenue
A 13-story rental, the 84-unit Karl Fischer–designed Williamsburg opened last year on the site where a one-story commercial building once stood. A developer named Mario Fichera broke ground on the building, which has a part-time doorman and bamboo floors, in 2008, but the project saw delays. One-bedrooms at the building, which is being marketed by Halstead Property, were starting at $2,676 a month at press time. Brokers say units on the street rent for about $60 a square foot, compared to $70 on the waterfront.
320 Wythe Avenue
Two Jakes Furniture, which opened in 1997, was a retail pioneer in an area loaded with nine-to-five factories. Today it sells aluminum Emeco bar stools, which start at $650.
80 Metropolitan Avenue
This nearly full-block six-story condo, which sits on the corner of Wythe and was developed by an affiliate of Steiner Studios, felt the sting of the recession. Launching in 2007, the building, which features private rooftop cabanas, didn’t even hit the halfway mark of sales of its 122 units until 2010. But in 2012, it sold out with average prices of $760 a square foot, according to StreetEasy.
268 Wythe Avenue
A slender 13-unit condo with wood slats across its facade, No. 268 struggled to connect with buyers in the recession, selling just a single unit, according to Eric Benaim, CEO of the brokerage Modern Spaces, which took over the project in 2012. After being rechristened as the Louver House, the remaining units sold in the high-$700-a-square-foot range, Benaim said, adding that they could fetch $1,100 per square foot if resold today.
225 Wythe Avenue
Relish, a restaurant tucked inside the Wythe Diner, near North 3rd Street, closed in 2010. Reborn in 2011 as Café de la Esquina, an offshoot of the Soho restaurant, it serves $16 pork enchiladas.
224 Wythe Avenue
At North 4th Street, this four-story, 20-unit rental called Wythe Avenue Lofts was developed by the Chetrit Group, which took out a $56 million mortgage in 2008, according to city records. In 2012, though, the firm sold at least a stake in the property to Olive Partners for $14 million, records show. A two-bedroom was recently listed at $3,850 a month.
76 North 4th Street
Called the SteelWorks Lofts, this residential conversion perhaps best embodies the area’s spectacular collapse and Phoenix-like revival. In 2007, developer Fifth Square Partners paid $27 million for this property, a former fabrication plant on the corner of Wythe, then began to create 83 condos. However, during the downturn, the firm was unable to pre-sell enough units to get full financing, according to sources close to the project. In 2010, Cayuga Capital Management and Jacob Toll, son of real estate mogul Robert Toll, stepped in, paying about $17 million for the long-stalled site, which is now being reinvented as a rental. The apartments will hit the market by June, said Jamie Wiseman, a Cayuga principal.
50 North 5th Street
A sprawling seven-story rental developed by Mack Real Estate Group and Urban Development Partners on the site of a former carpet factory, this building opened last fall with 229 units. Studios at the building, which was originally known as 204 Wythe Avenue, start at $2,600 a month. Different in look from many of the glassy towers that went up on other blocks in the mid-2000s, this red-brick complex, which is on the corner of Wythe, includes a lobby that recalls a vintage steak house, with tufted banquettes and dark-wood floors.
149 Kent Avenue
This massive site, which extends along North 5th to Wythe and also housed a carpet manufacturer, is being developed into a 164-unit rental by L&M Development Partners. The project is slated to open in 2015; sources said 20 percent of the units will be affordable. In 2012, L&M bought the site for about $20 million, according to news reports. Ron Moelis, L&M’s co-founder, did not return a call for comment. But David Maundrell, of aptsandlofts, said the building will rise to 70 feet, which is permitted under the 2005 rezoning that covered many of Wythe’s blocks.
185 Wythe Avenue
This winter, for the first time, the successful Williamsburg Flea market decamped from the nearby East River State Park to the 47,000-square-foot second floor at this 1940s industrial building. (It had spent the previous winter at One Hanson Place, the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank.) Asking commercial rents have been $50 to $100 a square foot at the graffiti-covered building, which also housed the food fair Smorgasburg. Both tenants were scheduled to be there into last month.
133 Wythe Avenue
Café Mogador, a longtime East Village Moroccan-themed favorite, expanded to this address in 2012.
96 Wythe Avenue
The city’s 2005 rezoning kept the rough-edged northern section of Wythe a manufacturing area. But now, hotels, which are allowed under the zoning, are popping up. Indeed, on the corner of North 10th Street, foundations are being poured for a hotel that’s expected to have around 160 rooms. Sources say Heritage Equity Partners and local landlord Yoel Goldman are the developers and that they paid $7 million for the site. A message for Heritage CEO Toby Moskovits was not returned.
93 Wythe Avenue
For years, a full-block site between North 9th and 10th streets was owned by the Rosenwach Group, which makes wooden water tanks for city roofs. But in quick succession last year, the site swapped hands twice: In May, the Sydell Group, the firm behind the Ace and NoMad hotels, paid $10 million for the site. Then, last fall, Sydell sold the site — three contiguous parcels — to Ennismore Capital, which developed London’s Hoxton Hotel, for $17 million, though Sydell will still be involved in the project, sources say. While no building permits have yet been filed, sources add that a 100-room hotel is planned. Rosenwach did not respond to requests for comment, while Ennismore declined to comment.
90 Wythe Avenue
Among the many hybrid store-restaurants in the area is Kinfolk, at North 11th Street. However, its restaurant portion Aska, which on a recent day offered a $39 prix-fixe menu of lamb hearts and skirt steak, closed last month. This month, a new bistro is to open there.
87 Wythe Avenue
A former bus garage that runs from North 10th to North 11th streets will soon be razed to make way for a 12-story, 100,000-square-foot retail-and-office building, its developer, Cayuga’s Wiseman, told TRD. As part of the project, Vice magazine, currently a tenant next door, at 90 North 11th Street, will lose its home; so will Fast Ashley’s Studios, at 95 North 10th Street, added Wiseman, who’s partnered with the current landowner, whom he did not name. Cayuga has not ruled out leasing space to Vice once the new complex is built, Wiseman said.
80 Wythe Avenue
The 2012 opening of the Wythe Hotel was a game-changer for the area. “The Wythe really kicked it all off,” Wiseman said. Developed by local restaurateur Andrew Tarlow, and Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, the 70-room former cooperage has quickly become fashionable, with a line of black town cars often waiting outside. Walentas, of course, is also redeveloping the nearby Domino Sugar Factory.
74 Wythe Avenue
Thumping with techno is the 11,400-square-foot Output club, which opened a year ago in a former spice factory. Cayuga Capital Management is the landlord. Meanwhile, around the corner, another club, Verboten, opened last month in a former metal shop. “There are hints of the Meatpacking District here,” Maundrell said, “but these places aren’t snobby and snooty.”
61 Wythe Avenue
The 2,000-square-foot Brooklyn Bowl, a concert venue with 16 bowling lanes and a Blue Ribbon restaurant, opened in 2009. Its leased space, which underwent major renovations, is inside a restored 1882 ironworks foundry.
55 Wythe Avenue
Another hotel, with 183 rooms and 20 stories, is planned for a block-long site between North 12th and 13th streets containing Star Poly Bag Manufacturing, according to a sign. To be built by local developer Zelig Weiss, the high-rise will also have retail and offices, according to news reports. According to city records, a contract has been signed, but the deal has not closed. A message left with a number appearing on the contract was not returned.
19 Kent Avenue
Heritage Equity is planning a rare speculative office complex at this site, which extends through to Wythe, from North 12th to 13th streets, where cherry-picker machines were once stored, according to sources close to the project. The $32 million purchase closed last year, city records show. “A lot of tech companies will be looking to plant their flag here,” said Barrocas of MNS.