The New Coney Island - Brooklyn's Times Square by the Sea

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brooklyn High Note

WSJ excerpt -

It costs up to $67 a ticket for a ride to the top of the Empire State Building. But the view from the highest point in Brooklyn atop a sleek glass-and-aluminum apartment building is free—at least with purchase or rental of an apartment in Downtown Brooklyn's newest tower.

The new building, the first big condominium development in Downtown Brooklyn to come on the market since the financial crisis in 2008, is part of a second wave of residential development that is also bringing high-end groceries and retail stores to the borough's once-faded central business district.

"We are in the middle of a building boom," said Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. He said 3,300 apartments were now under development in the area.

The tower at 388 Bridge St. will have an illuminated crown at the top with a residents-only observatory bathed in a changing-color light display, like the other tall buildings across the river. The lights will be powered by two 17-foot-high, curved wind turbines that look like large globes from windows in nearby buildings.

It is 53 stories and 590 feet high from the curb, according to Roger Fortune, a vice president at the Stahl Organization, which is developing the project. It is listed at 575 feet in plans submitted to the Department of Buildings, but both figures are tall enough to take the title of the tallest building in Brooklyn—at least for the next year or so.

The new building, known as 388 Bridge, eclipsed the Brooklyner, a 531-foot building in Downtown Brooklyn that opened at the end of 2009. The Brooklyner in turn took the title from the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower at 512 feet, which held the record since the 1920s. The bank building was converted condominiums in 2007.

Now just across Bridge Street, construction crews are working on the foundation for a rental project that could top 388 Bridge by a few feet. The new building, being built by AvalonBay Communities Inc., is due to rise to 596 feet and have 826 apartments. It is due to open in 2015.

The 388 Bridge building is part condo, part market-rate rental and part low-income rental, and is due to open in a few weeks. The project is a test of the strength of the condo market in Downtown Brooklyn, after years in which banks were reluctant to bankroll condominium development, especially in less established, more risky markets.

The Stahl Organization filed for a building permit in 2007, but halted foundation work the following year, when a bank that had promised a construction loan faced its own financial problems. Construction resumed in 2012, only after the developer agreed to put up 40% of the cost of the building, Mr. Fortune said.

Since then, Downtown Brooklyn, once a bastion of mom-and-pop stores, has seen a resurgence of interest in retail and a modest increase in dining destinations to serve its growing nighttime population.

Retailers that are planning or are established downtown include Armani Exchange, Gap, H&M and Banana Republic. Sephora, the cosmetics emporium, and a Neiman Marcus outlet are moving into retail space in the Brooklyn Municipal Building.

The 144 condos on high floors with the best views at 388 Bridge will go on the market at prices ranging from about $730,000 for a smaller one-bedroom with a view to nearly $6 million a four-bedroom penthouse.

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