By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable hosted a luncheon at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Tuesday, with some of Brooklyn's most prominent real estate professionals. The event, which disseminates information about current Brooklyn projects, also raises money for the Brooklyn Historical Society.
“We started doing these round tables back in 2005,” Christopher Havens, AptsandLofts.com, Real Estate Roundtable Steering Committee co-chair, said. “It’s really been a great opportunity to learn about projects in the borough, see what’s working and why."
The original concept for a Real Estate Roundtable came from a meeting between Deborah Schwartz, President of the Brooklyn Historical Society, and David Kramer of Hudson Companies, Inc. As a Heights resident, David wanted to do something to help BHS. He came up with an idea to create a real estate forum event, with BHS being the recipient of the proceeds.
“We gross about $100,000 a year for BHS,” Havens added.
Havens explained that the roundtables started out of necessity. There was nothing like the forum in Brooklyn during the 1990s, while Manhattan boasted over 100 similar conferences. In such a complicated business, Brooklyn real estate brokers and developers needed more.
“What we’re involved with deals with a lot of complicated business issues,” Havens said. “We needed a chance to get together and talk about some of these issues. We just didn’t have something like this 10 or 12 years ago. Now our roundtable is the highest-level gathering of its kind in terms of the type of heavy hitters we have speak here.”
The roundtables are quarterly events held at the regal Brooklyn Historical Society building. Attendees gather in the extraordinary Othmer Library and featured speakers discuss everything from demographic changes to financing availability to crime and the economy as it affects Brooklyn. This month's speakers were Jody Kriss of East River Partners; Jonathan Butler, the founder of Brownstoner.com and the Brooklyn Flea; and Robert LiMandri, the commissioner of the NYC Department of Buildings.
Butler was interviewed by Stephen Palmese about the creative office development he is involved with at 1000 Dean St. in Crown Heights. Butler discussed how he got the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Fund to assist him in developing the project and how his website helped to leverage interest in it.
“The idea was to play a catalytic role as far as commercial opportunities in the area,” Butler said. “An alternative to DUMBO, as there already is not enough room for current companies that are there to grow and stay there.
“There will never be enough office space in Brooklyn,” Havens added. “That’s why people are excited by 1000 Dean.”
LiMandri was interviewed by Havens to discuss past, present and future innovations at the DOB. The biggest takeaway was the importance of using technology to improve the developing process.
“If you are hiring people and they are not using our electronic filing and technology, you need to ask them why, because it’ll save you money,” LiMandri said.
Finally, Kriss was interviewed by John Horowitz about the conversion of rental buildings to condominiums. Kriss explained that his company started building in Brooklyn almost by accident, but has since embraced the area as they have learned the trends that make it a unique alternative to Manhattan.
“People voting with their dollars are going for brownstones,” Kriss said. “That’s what the whole company is based on. It takes guts doing this because you are starting with costs of $1.5 million, $2.5 million, or more – numbers you wouldn’t have imagined even two years ago.”