East Williamsburg: Between Hotspots, a Haven

Neighborhood Report: East Williamsburg

With neighbors that include the supernova that is North Williamsburg, reigning favorite Greenpoint and burgeoning Bushwick in Brooklyn and understated overachiever Ridgewood in Queens, it’s easy to make the assumption that, like south Brooklyn’s Gowanus, East WilliamsbSHOPPINGurg is the luckier winner-by-proximity than flyover zone. Though, due to architecture and housing stock, community history and recent residential development, the neighborhood, which always had its own subtle identity, has become an “it” residential choice for a demographic that includes millennial professionals, young creatives, families and others who want to live along the L, but whom identify with neither the stroller set nor the Euro-glam/party bro tribes that have found a home on the North side–but who want more of an established community than what they’d find in young, artsy Bushwick.

The neighborhood, once dominated by Italian and Puerto Rican immigrants, has experienced tremendous growth since 2010, attracting the more affluent Brooklyn set looking for more value and an easy commute to other Brooklyn neighborhoods and Manhattan. With this new influx of the young and hip, the neighborhood now supports a thriving art community, local music scene and plenty of bars and restaurants and is adjacent to what is fast becoming Brooklyn’s largest office community in Bushwick. The evolution of surrounding North Brooklyn neighborhoods has helped redefine it, and rapid population growth combined with the increased residential, retail and office development have brought East Williamsburg into its own.

Development

While zoning and the neighborhood’s characteristics make it more conducive to low-rise small boutique residential buildings rather than high rises, the neighborhood’s most recent development boom has barely kept up with increasing demand. Newly-minted apartment buildings take modern form between 19th century brick. You’ll find that many of the neighborhood’s low-lying industrial buildings have become home to new residential and commercial projects with the goal of attracting TAMI (technology, advertising, media, and information) tenants that the Real Deal reported accounted for over a quarter of the top ten leases in the city in the second quarter of 2013.

A wave of new development is transforming the area into a commercial office destination for tech and creative tenants. Next door, Bushwick is fast becoming Brooklyn’s largest office community. Investors increasingly focus on this new office submarket on the East Williamsburg-Bushwick border. Add the nearby Navy Yard and Sunset Park to the south, and it’s not long until residents of the North Brooklyn neighborhood can choose their (easy) commute in any direction.

Among the newer additions are residential developments:

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At 781 Metropolitan Avenue, Adam America is developing an amenity-packed 81-unit rental residence with 10,000 square feet of retail.

At the site of the long-in-limbo Liberty Department Stores building at 774-776 Grand Street (near the Grand Street L train stop) a 71-unit rental building with 11,000 square feet of retail (currently for lease) is another new addition. The 82,000 square-foot development, known as the Brooklyn Grand and designed by Meshberg Group, will feature amenities like an 800-square-foot fitness room and a 3,500-square-foot roof deck. The building was purchased in 2013 by Dean Marchi of Grand Street Development and Jeff Kurtz of Kamson Corp. for $14,200,000.

Commercial, retail and office space projects:

319frostAt 319 Frost Street, the 150-year-old Pfizer plant, which closed in 2008, was reborn in 2011 as a hub of 21st century creative and manufacturing. Tenants include a Madagascar-made chocolate company, bakeries, a small-batch bourbon company, a metal shop, a jeweler and a research lab. A 15,000 square foot space on the 8th floor is slated to become the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator. Bowery Presents may open a live music venue at the site as well.

333johnsonAt 333 Johnson Avenue near the Morgan L stop, Normandy Real Estate Partners and Princeton Holdings LLC acquired a 160,000 square-foot low-rise industrial property in East Williamsburg for $26.75 million and are converting what was previously the site of a slaughterhouse and later a printing press into a mixed-use office, retail and restaurant complex that will include 40,000 square feet of outdoor space.

Transforming a four-story former paper mill near the Morgan Avenue L stop into a project called, aptly, the Paper Mill, will house 35 commercial office units upon its completion and will be ideal for creative office tenants who are finding workspaces in Brooklyn in increasing numbers.

Anthepapermillother notable addition is the conversion of a vacant 58,000-square-foot warehouse at 456 Johnson Avenue. 35 office units will span between 900 and 2,200 rentable square feet each, with asking rents in the upper-$40s per square foot on one- to five-year leases. Retail space will occupy the building’s ground floor.

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Lincoln Property Group is considering rents of about $50 per square foot at a 100,000-square-foot former factory at 455 Jefferson Street.

The space known as “BushwickGenerator” at 215 Moore Street, being developed by Toby Moskovits, will include 75,000 square feet over five interconnected warehouses.

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Real estate investment firm Savanna and Daren Hornig’s Hornig Capital Partners have teamed up on a 160,000-square-foot office/retail conversion of what was once the Schlitz Brewery at 95 Evergreen Avenue.

Demographics

You could say East Williamsburg is the Greenpoint of Williamsburg, or the South Slope, (or perhaps the Ridgewood), but that would only work if you’d been following their meteoric recent rise in popularity as waves of escapees from skyrocketing rents in neighboring areas realized these tranquil enclaves were actually better places to live than their white-hot neighbors. Parallels can be drawn: East Williamsburg was never a high-crime “bad” neighborhood (similar to Greenpoint and Ridgewood, which became part of Queens in the 1970s to escape the burning wasteland that neighbor Bushwick, Brooklyn had become).

Home prices and rents are slightly lower than its waterfront neighbors (though not by much), yet proximity to the growing wave of cutting edge cultural venues and innovative eating establishments is virtually the same. It’s a little chiller here (see South Slope, above), and the family influence of yore is still in effect, which new young families find comforting.

Schools

But much more comforting–and similar to Greenpoint–the neighborhood’s school availability is key to its popularity with families. PS 132 The Conselyea School, right at the center of the neighborhood and within District 14 (where there are no kindergarten waitlists and parents can send their kids anywhere in the district), gets great reviews, as do several other public schools in Greenpoint and Williamsburg overall. New schools (including the progressive magnet school PS 414/Brooklyn Arbor School) have arrived in the district recently, reflecting the influential influx of parents committed to top quality education and community strength for families.

Transportation

There’s not much need to explain the ability of the L train to turn real estate into gold. The L train has functioned like virtual fairy dust for developers. Where it goes, so goes desire, and opportunity after it. And it goes right through East Williamsburg. What’s more, the G train stops at the neighborhood’s perimeters as a backup (such as in the much-dreaded upcoming L-train shutdown).

Amenities

Large chain grocery stores like Associated Supermarket and C-town serve the neighborhood and have grown to accommodate the tastes of both old and new residents. But its smaller specialty shops like the if-it’s-healthy-it’s-here mini-chain Khim’s Millenium Market and Emily’s Pork Store that get raves.

Restaurants, Bars, Cafes and Culture

Between Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, you’re pretty much covered when it comes to food and drinks and discovering art, music and the people who create it. In East Williamsburg, while arts venue House of Yes got their start here then moved further east to Bushwick, their legacy continues in the form of new art galleries like World Money Gallery and Alt Space. Vanguard scene-anchor Don Pedro offers live rock and burritos, and Pine Box Rock Shop is another established music venue on the Bushwick border.

duckduck nycRestaurants, bars and cafes are too numerous to mention, with newcomers arriving what seems like daily. Neighborhood standbys like The Graham pub, Sage Restaurant, Variety coffee, Cup and the old-school Carmine’s join familiar Manhattan-based favorites like Porto Rico Coffee Roasters. The international foodie mecca, michelin starred Roberta’s is here as well, of course. Among the newer additions: City of Saints Coffee Roasters, bar Our Wicked Lady from Brooklyn Bowl staff, Newtown for vegetarian and vegan food and C. Lo Cafe for breakfast and cold brew coffee.