Panelist Says “We Need a Good Five Years”
By Linda Collins
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — “It’s still early for Bushwick as the next hot spot,” said Lori Raphael, director of Real Estate and Development (RED) for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, at the conclusion of the RED panel last week at St. Francis College, which focused on the neighborhood.
Panelist David Maundrell of http://aptsandlofts.com, seemed to agree, commenting that “Bushwick is still in its infancy” and “Bushwick today is what Williamsburg was 10 years ago.”
Young artists and creative types are following the L train east from Williamsburg to East Williamsburg to Bushwick and soon to Queens, according to Maundrell, who was providing a neighborhood overview for the standing-room-only crowd.
“They like being considered pioneers and they love loft space. And Bushwick has plenty of that,” he said.
Maundrell claims that the corner of Bogart and Siegel streets near Flushing Avenue is where it all began for Bushwick in a building with live/work artist lofts. He described it as gritty and desolate at night.
“If you saw it now, your head would spin,” he said.
Then loft rentals and ultimately luxury rentals and then condos came to Bushwick, according to Maundrell, who pointed to a condo development-turned-rental at 114 Troutman St. with “incredible amenities” — like a garden, a fitness room, a rooftop terrace and a screening room — “but also a dark room and gallery space to appeal to the artists,” he said.
This was soon followed by a building at 550 Irving, which had mezzanine lofts, a rooftop terrace, and very rare for Bushwick, a swimming pool.
Another panelist, Michael Amirkhanian of Massey Knakal Realty Services, reported that there was $36.9 million in sales in Bushwick last year, up 52 percent from 2010.
“What we’re seeing is investors finding new properties and conversions being done in manufacturing, industrial and warehouse buildings,” he said.
Massey Knakal is also seeing more land-rich, cash-poor nonprofits that are liquidating their holdings, he noted. One client, Metro Ministries, is liquidating a four-building-plus-parking-lot site at Bushwick Avenue and Harmon Street that could be sold as one site or divided up and sold separately.
Panelist Andrew Jackson of The Hudson Companies and project manager for The Knick, a new condominium development at Knickerbocker Avenue and Hart Street, said the 49-unit, three-building complex is 65 percent sold.
The difference between this and other projects Hudson has done is the high number of one-bedroom units (28) “to attract first-time buyers,” Jackson said.
The design team also made an attempt to keep the existing industrial character of the once-deteriorated structures.
“It’s essentially new construction inside a masonry shell,” he explained. “Young architects and graphic designers appreciate the effort at preservation.”
Amenities are also a factor. There is a fitness room, bike storage, a roof terrace and very large private terraces.
And at street level, 15,000 square feet of retail space.
“We’re hoping for a coffee shop and an organic market in a neighborhood that is still mostly bodegas and 99-cent stores.”
Retail development in Bushwick was the focus for panelist Jamie Wiseman of Cayuga Capitol Management Inc., the developer of the Wyckoff Exchange, which won a Building Brooklyn Award for retail in 2011.
“It’s limited,” he said, adding, “Our whole role here is to appeal to the new tenants in the nearby buildings. We need bars, restaurants and all the services that people expect.”
Retail in Bushwick is scattered and operator-driven and there’s limited developer interest, according to Wiseman. One problem, he noted, is that “we could be too early.”
“We need a good five years on the retail side. The residential’s there, but not the retail,” he concluded.
For information about future RED events, please call Lori Raphael at (718) 875-1000, ext. 140.