The Heights has never really been an outer-borough neighborhood. But whatever stigma there may have been was wiped away. The Court Street and Atlantic Avenue commercial nexus went from urban no-man’s-land to mini-mall, leaving families even less inclined to move away from the neighborhood. “If my wife is coming home late at night from Borough Hall, it no longer feels like a dangerous, desolate stretch,” says lawyer Jonathan Rosenberg. Scarcity of product fed the sellers’ market, and prices began to approach Upper East Side levels. Three years ago, a two-bedroom, two-bath co-op at 48 Remsen Street—a brick-faced, five-story townhouse just off the Promenade—sold for $400,000. Last month, it sold for $780,000. Because there has been little new development, priced-out buyers have had to content themselves with Boerum Hill or Carroll Gardens.
CREATURE COMFORTS: While most are thrilled with the commercial facelift, skyrocketing rents have edged out a few neighborhood institutions. Faced with a 77 percent rent increase, Peter’s Ice Cream on Atlantic Avenue will close this month after twenty years. “It’s outrageous,” says owner-manager Chris Cowan. Gone, too, are the abandoned triple-X theater and bombed-out storefronts that once blighted northern Court Street, replaced by deep-pocketed national chains like Barnes & Noble, Ben & Jerry’s, CVS, and a Regal multiplex (rather than compete, the Cobble Hill Cinema became art-house). Farther down in Cobble Hill, old men still keep watch from their lawn chairs over a vibrant mix of fish stores, butchers, bakeries, and delis. A 71-acre waterfront park planned for the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge has Joralemon Street residents in a panic at the thought of hordes of day-trippers parading down their manicured blocks.
MIGRATIONS: When William B. May sold a brownstone on Wyckoff Street in Cobble Hill for $675,000 in 1996, it was a coup. “At that time, you had to drag people kicking and screaming to that block,” says William B. May’s Chris Thomas. By late last year, a fully restored four-story Federal-era house on Congress Street was selling for just over $2 million. Soon the boom spread to what brokers call “Cobble Hill West,” the area cut off by the BQE. “You couldn’t give property away there,” says Thomas. Now two-bedroom condos at 29 Tiffany Place, a converted sandpaper factory, fetch $500,000. “You’re no longer thought of as ‘You fell off the map.’”
WHAT’S NEW: After a moratorium on SRO conversions was lifted, the last of Brooklyn Heights’ many rooming houses was picked off by developers. At 71 Pierrepont Street, a long-vacant SRO was converted into two- and three-bedroom luxury condos in 1995. Another SRO at 170 Hicks Street is now a luxury condo with skyline views and garden apartments.
PROGNOSIS: While demand is still there, prices have begun to plateau. “The market is stabilizing,” says broker Kevin Carberry. “It’s not pushing through the roof as it had been earlier last year.”
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