Eye On Real Estate
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It's a homecoming for Meredith Marshall.
His development firm has been chosen to rebuild Flatbush Caton Market.
The co-founder and managing partner of BRP Development Corp. grew up in East Flatbush, not far from the city-owned market at 794-814 Flatbush Ave.
As a kid, Marshall played center field on the local baseball team, the Brooklyn Bonnies, at the Prospect Park Parade Grounds, he told Eye on Real Estate recently over tea and carrot cake at the market.
Instead of attending a neighborhood high school, he won admission to prestigious Brooklyn Tech in Fort Greene.
In the years since he left East Flatbush for Boston University, Marshall, 50, has earned an MBA at Columbia University, worked at big-name investment bank Wasserstein Perella and developed a $37 million office complex and mall in Zimbabwe.
Marshall, who was born in Crown Heights and lived in Fort Greene as an adult, has worked on numerous Brooklyn developments — but none in Flatbush until now.
BRP has an eye-catching makeover plan for the market, which is a bare-bones mini-mall built a decade and a half ago as an indoor venue for street vendors mostly selling Caribbean-themed merchandise. The market — a concrete-block building filled with a warren of cramped sellers' stalls and lit by glaring fluorescent lights — is managed by the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI).
The development firm intends to construct a new building called Caton Flats with 166 apartments, a first-floor vendors' market of about 11,000 square feet, 10,000 square feet of conventional retail space, an office for CACCI and a business incubator with a commercial kitchen.
All the apartments in Caton Flats will be affordable units. The current plan is for 20 percent of them to be occupied by low-income residents, 30 percent by moderate-income residents and 50 percent by middle-income residents.
BRP is a minority-owned business enterprise, city officials noted in a recent announcement about the Flatbush Caton Market redevelopment.
The architecture firm that's designing Caton Flats, Freeform + Deform, is headed by an American-born Nigerian, Anaelechi Owunwanne, who graduated from Cornell.
ULURP first, construction later
Marshall wants to give the market's vendors the tools for financially sound business growth, starting with a state-of-the-art building.
“The new building is going to be a 21st-Century design, with a lot of glazing so you can see in from the outside,” he explained. “It will have energy-efficient LED lighting. It will have broadband wireless access. There will be a co-generation plant onsite.”
Also, BRP is partnering with a company called Urbane Development that will provide the vendors with business training tailored to their individual needs and technical assistance.
Urbane Development will operate Caton Flats' business incubator. And it will assist CACCI in managing the vendors' market.
The existing market building will remain open for another year, Marshall said, then the vendors will be moved to a temporary site in the neighborhood while the new building is constructed.
BRP hasn't yet closed on its purchase of the site on the corner of Flatbush and Caton avenues, city Finance Department records indicate.
It will not do so until after the city seeks a zoning change through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Marshall said.
Caton Flats' proposed design is a 10-story building. That's too tall for the property's current zoning, which sets a construction height limit of 80 feet.
Marshall hopes to close on the site purchase by December 2017 — but that depends on how soon the ULURP process is completed. If that happens, the construction of the new building could be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.
BRP renovated the Graham Home for Old Ladies
Marshall co-founded BRP in 1998 with Geoff Flournoy, who was a vice president at AIG's Global Real Estate Investment Group. They've been friends since their college days in Boston.
BRP's first office was in Fort Greene, at 739 Fulton St. The firm is now located in Midtown East.
Its Brooklyn projects include the purchase and renovation of 63 rent-stabilized residential buildings near the Livonia L train stop in East New York and the construction of an affordable-apartment building at 1560 Fulton St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
BRP is a U.S. Treasury Department-certified Community Development Entity — a company with a mission to serve low-income communities.
A BRP development in Harlem that would involve tearing down and rebuilding the Renaissance Ballroom has generated criticism. Preservationist Michael Henry Adams has called the plan “cultural genocide,” Curbed.com reported.
“That's just noise,” Marshall said when we asked about this. “My record stands up against his.”
Marshall's firm has done numerous preservation projects — including the historically sensitive restoration and condo conversion of the 1850s-vintage Graham Home for Old Ladies at 320 Washington Ave. in the Clinton Hill Historic District.
The Renaissance Ballroom, which was nicknamed the Renny, has been closed since 1979 and has been deteriorating for decades.
“Quite frankly, the Renny could have been saved years ago,” Marshall told us. “By the time we bought it, it was 60 percent gone.”