New Developments Battle Brownstones in Boerum Hill
Don’t call it Boring Hill.
Boerum Hill, a quaint enclave long known for its stately stock of brownstones, will see a batch of larger structures arrive — activity that is a strong sign of a neighborhood in flux.
Developers believe they’re simply filling a void, industry sources say. Boerum Hill has been home to larger buildings, but not enough of them. Folks in the local real estate market also attribute its boom to the desire to live in a spot easily accessed by 12 subway lines — without the hefty cost of a brownstone.
The Hendrik launches sales this spring on Pacific Street.
“If you look at the last cycle of Boerum Hill, the majority of new developments were townhouses,” says Brendan Aguayo, managing director of Halstead Property Development Marketing, which is handling sales and marketing at two condos — The Hendrik, a 33-unit project at 509 Pacific St., which aims to launch sales this spring from an estimated $1.5 million, and 610 Warren, an address with 31 apartments and interior design by Paris Forino, which also launches this spring, with pricing from $950,000. “With condos, there’s opportunity to be in a very brownstone-fabric neighborhood for a lower price point.”
He’s right. The median price for a Boerum Hill condo was $1.42 million in March, StreetEasy shows, while the figure for townhouses hit $3.99 million.
It’s a perk for those looking for a prime area for less, but that doesn’t mean everyone welcomes the activity.
New projects will mix with Boerum Hill’s historic architecture.
“When these buildings go up, people who have back yards lose their light,” Howard Kolins, who’s lived in Boerum Hill since 1985 and serves as president of the civic group, Boerum Hill Association, says of the area’s construction.
Kolins’ group is working to expand Boerum Hill’s historic district beyond its current Pacific, Wyckoff, Hoyt and Nevins street boundaries. The goal is to protect historic properties from ceding to a Downtown Brooklyn-style landscape.
They aim to make their proposal official in the coming months.
Other residents appear more sanguine. Nabe homeowner Erik Gunnervall feels that construction can beautify the surroundings.
“I actually believe that will help property values,” Gunnervall says of the potential results of that work. “We have no construction close to us that would take away the view and be particularly noisy. I’m a great proponent of preserving architecture within a block, and so far that has been done.”
This isn’t the first time Boerum Hill has felt the tremors of change.
“It was very edgy,” recounts developer Abby Hamlin of Boerum Hill in 2004 — the year she bought a full block of properties between State, Schermerhorn, Smith and Hoyt streets in a joint venture to build 23 new townhouses. “At one side of State Street, you had historic townhouses, and everything else was a sea of parking.”
Erik Gunnervall, at home with his son in Boerum Hill, epitomizes the area’s new crop of buyers.
But not all neighborhood projects will have pricey pads. As part of a NYCHA initiative to bulk up its coffers, the agency aims to choose a developer this fall for two towers to rise in parking lots at the Wyckoff Gardens housing project, located near the intersection of Warren and Nevins streets.
The work could deliver up to 650 units, according to reports, with half reserved for affordable housing.
Amid this new development boom, there is another concern: the survival of retail spaces. Boerum Hill has also been known for a wide range of small boutiques and shops, and some fear that new residences will make commercial rents soar, forcing existing merchants to close.
Last year, Jesse’s Deli — a long-standing staple — faced a staggering rent increase to $10,000 from $4,000 monthly, according to multiple reports at the time. Jesse’s remains open as the lease deal filters through court.
Boerum Hill’s new growth has had “its positive aspects, [but] it’s driving out the merchant community,” says Tammy Ben-Eliezer-Baxter, of the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation, a neighborhood advocacy organization.