First residential building at AY to break ground this year

<i>Also revealed at Brooklyn Roundtable: Borough “urban market” to open in May and closings to begin at Isabella condo</i>

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; John Rhea, the chairman of the New York City Housing Authority; and MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner Companies

Within the year, Brooklyn may see the start of construction on the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards, the opening of a new outdoor market in Downtown Brooklyn and sales commencing at new residential condominium 20 Henry.

Members of the real estate community received these and other development updates yesterday at the first installment of the 2011 Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable series.

Speakers at the event, held at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, included Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; John Rhea, the chairman of the New York City Housing Authority; and MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development and leasing at Forest City Ratner Companies, who gave an update on the Barclays Center Arena. David Ridini, managing director of Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, discussed the firm’s investments in new condos Isabella and 20 Henry, and Paul Travis, managing partner at developer Washington Square Partners, talked about the City Point project in Downtown Brooklyn. 

Markowitz started things off on a light-hearted note, talking excitedly about the impending arrival of the Nets basketball team, which is slated to play at the Barclays Center Arena beginning in the 2012-2013 season.

“I can’t wait for the first game,” Markowitz said.

He noted that when the Dodgers baseball team still called Brooklyn home, the players were affectionately nicknamed “bums.”

“However the Brooklyn Nets do, they’ll be our bums,” he said.

Markowitz ended with a call for more affordable housing in the borough.

“We need as much affordable housing as you can build,” he said to the audience of real estate professionals.

Fittingly, the next speaker was Rhea of NYCHA, who said the city’s public housing is in need of “reinvestment.” To do that, he said the agency is looking for ways to bring new supermarkets, schools and retail stores into public housing communities to help revitalize them. For example, he said NYCHA is in the process of building a new charter school at Harlem’s Saint Nicholas Houses through a partnership with Harlem Children’s Zone.

John Rhea, speaking at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable yesterday

Rhea said the agency is also exploring partnerships with private-sector developers to help create “long-term revenue streams.” The organization has 50,000 square feet of transfer development rights in Manhattan alone, he said.

“We have to be smart leveraging that asset,” he added.

Gilmartin emphasized the affordable housing elements of Forest City Ratner’s master plan for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site, calling it “one of the more ambitious” affordable housing initiatives the city has seen. The project is slated to eventually have more than 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing.

The first residential building on the site will be a 50-30-20 project, she said, meaning 20 percent of the apartments will be reserved for low-income tenants, 30 percent for middle-income tenants and the rest for market-rate renters. She said Forest City Ratner hopes to begin construction this year.

In the meantime, the 18,000-seat Barclays arena is now under construction, and the curtain wall is scheduled for installation this summer, she said. There are already over 200 events planned for the stadium, she said, including the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and at least two tennis events.

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A subway entrance on the site, currently dormant, is currently undergoing construction to make it useable, she said. Apple is reportedly eyeing potential retail spots in the area. 

Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner’s newly constructed 365-unit rental building, 80 DeKalb, is 97 percent leased, she said, adding that units there have rented for an average of $50 per square foot.

City Point

Washington Square Partners’ Travis gave an update on another large-scale project, the 125,000-square-foot mixed-use City Point site at the eastern end of the Fulton Street Mall shopping area in Downtown Brooklyn. The project is being developed by a joint venture of Washington Square Partners, Acadia Realty Trust and PA Associates.

City Point received $20 million in stimulus funding in June, Travis said, and construction has now started on the first phase, a four-story, 50,000-square-foot retail building slated for completion in early 2012. He said he couldn’t talk about tenants but said there will be “a mix” of national and local retailers. Asking rents range from $75 to $200 per square foot, he said.

The project “will get people shopping in Downtown Brooklyn again,” he said.

Paul Travis, speaking at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable yesterday

Meanwhile, an outdoor “urban market” on the site is slated to open in May, Travis said. The market is being created by a partnership between Young Woo & Associates and Urban Space Management, a developer and manager of specialty retail markets, including the Union Square Holiday Market. Urban Space and Young Woo are also working together on a market at Pier 57.

As The Real Deal reported last month, the market will feature food, craft-making and farming from Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs.

“It’s not just a market,” explained Eldon Scott, the president of Urban Space, in an interview after the event. He said the market will include restaurants and exhibition space for performances. “It’s more of a community center.”

The infrastructure of the market will be created from repurposed shipping containers, which Urban Space has used in other projects, he said.

Finally, Ridini gave updates on the Isabella and 20 Henry. Both projects were stalled before the Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds provided financing to help them get going.

At the now-completed 63-unit Isabella, located in Clinton Hill, Canyon-Johnson $22.6 million loan to complete construction. Sixteen apartments have sold at an average of $500 per square foot, and closings will begin in about a week, Ridini said.

Construction has a ways to go at Brooklyn Heights’ condo conversion 20 Henry, which will feature larger, more expensive units than the Isabella, Ridini said.

Stribling Marketing Associates will begin selling units at 20 Henry in the fall.

Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds is a joint venture between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and an entity of Magic Johnson’s Magic Johnson Enterprises.

On working with the basketball legend, Ridini stayed mostly mum, but said: “he’s got big feet.”

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