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Tracking Large Developments and Affordable Housing in Crown Heights

July 17, 2015

*Structural Design done by ADG Engineering

608 Franklin Avenue, rendering by ODA Architecture608 Franklin Avenue, rendering by ODA Architecture

Crown Heights has some of the fastest rising rents in all of Brooklyn. It’s gentrifying at a rate that merited two New York Times real estate section features in the last year, neither of which could resist mentioning riots that occurred 24 years ago.

At the same time, new development is sweeping across the neighborhood, concentrated at the western edge between Washington and Nostrand Avenues. The area’s longtime factories and warehouses occupy large swaths of property, making them ideal development sites. And landmarking protects many of the blocks between Nostrand and Albany Avenues in the central, northern half of the neighborhood, discouraging new construction and driving up property values. (Earlier this week, a developer filed plans for condos between Brooklyn and New York Avenues, illustrating how expensive land in the Crown Heights Historic District has become.)

New affordable housing is finally being built, but it’s hard to predict whether new units will arrive fast enough to stem the flow of lower income tenants being priced out. Crown Heights’ fairly restrictive zoning and fast-rising property values don’t encourage subsidized development, but one affordable project opened last year in the more cheaper, eastern end of the hood. Utica Place, a 12-story, 87-unit rental building for low and middle income families, began leasing last year at Utica Avenue and Lincoln Place.

In an effort to prevent out-of-context development, the city rezoned 55 blocks of northwestern Crown Heights in 2013, imposing height caps in most areas while selectively upzoning others. Now big market-rate developments are sprouting on those upzoned blocks, and builders who want to benefit from 421-a tax abatements are setting aside 20% of their units as below-market housing. Western and southern Crown Heights lie within the geographic exclusion area for 421-a, meaning that developers must include affordable units in order to qualify for the break in property taxes.

505 St Marks Avenue—This eight-story, 147-unit building between Franklin and Classon Avenues is the furthest along on our list. We did a construction update earlier this week, and the facade and windows are nearly complete. The developer, Realty Within Reach, has applied for the 421-a abatement. If the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development approves the application, the building will have 29 affordable units. Issac and Stern are responsible for the design.

564 St Johns Place—Bed-Stuy-based developer Rabsky Group knocked down a large parking garage between Franklin and Classon Avenues to make way for this project in the spring. Steel has barely risen above the construction fence, and the first two floors are taking shape. Current plans call for eight stories and 193 apartments spread across 136,684 square feet. HPD tells us that the building has applied for 421-a, and they’re reviewing the case. It would produce 39 below-market apartments, and Karl Fischer is the architect of record.

1511 Bedford Avenue—Realty Within Reach is also developing this large site on the corner of Lincoln Place and Bedford Avenue. It was once home to the Neo-Classical Fox Savoy Theater, but the wrecking ball came for the ornate 1926 building last year. One day, a 10-story, 114-unit rental building will rise here, but right now it’s just a giant hole in the ground. Excavation is underway, and hopefully foundation work will begin soon. Twenty percent of the apartments—or 22 units—will rent to households making 60% of the Area Median Income, which ranges from $36,300 for a single person to $46,600 for a family of three. Just like 505 St Marks, Issac and Stern is designing. This property was upzoned during the Crown Heights West rezoning in 2013, and the developer gets a density bonus for including affordable housing.

1535 Bedford Avenue—Across the street from the Fox Savoy site, workers are slowly disassembling the BP gas station at 1535 Bedford Avenue, on the corner of Eastern Parkway. Developed by Adam America, the eight-story building will have 133 units and 19,000 square feet of retail. Issac and Stern will be responsible for the design, and the rendering, revealed by YIMBY in March, looks pretty similar to the architects’ plans at 1511 Bedford. Adam America paid $32,500,000 for the prominent corner lot, and they plan to set aside 20% of the units—about 27 apartments—as affordable housing.

608 Franklin Avenue—Part of the old Nassau Brewery complex at Dean Street and Franklin Avenue has just been demolished for this eight-story apartment building. Designed by ODA Architecture, the development will have 120 studios, one- and two-bedrooms. The builder will capitalize on Franklin’s hip bars and restaurants by including 19,000 square feet of retail. Brooklyn GC, led by Yoel Goldman, is the developer. The project will have 24 below-market units targeted to “moderate and middle income families,” according to the architect’s website.

The area south of Eastern Parkway is largely uncharted territory for new construction, and three sizable developments are underway there. We’re not sure whether these developers will apply for 421-a benefits, but given the trend a few blocks north, it seems likely.

Cornell Realty is planning a four-building, 208-unit project on the old Sea Crest Linen site at 902 Franklin Avenue, between Crown and Montgomery Streets. Demolition has begun, but the property’s iconic smokestack remains for now.

Down the block at 109 Montgomery Street, a 12-story building with 162 apartments is in the works. Cornell Realty is once again the developer, and Karl Fischer will design both 109 Montgomery and 902 Franklin. A single-story building once owned by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden still occupies the site, which sits between Washington Avenue and the Franklin Avenue shuttle tracks. So far, the DOB has only approved plan exam applications, not new building permits.

Finally, three floors have risen at 267 Rogers Avenue, a block-long site between Carroll and Crown Streets. St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church stood on the 51,000-square-foot property for nearly a century until it was demolished last year. Now a five-story, 112,000-square-foot building is taking shape. When construction wraps, there will be 165 apartments and 35 underground parking spaces. Renderings on the fence promise a light gray facade accented by navy blue and yellow panels, designed by Think Architecture and Design. Heights Advisors, based in Brooklyn Heights, is developing the building.

Since large rental buildings pay pretty high property taxes, we expect these owners will want every tax break they can get—even if they have to rent some units at slightly lower rates.


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