Wall Street Journal
During the past decade, Downtown Brooklyn started losing its reputation as a neighborhood that ran on banker’s hours and shut down as soon as the shoppers, office workers and students went home.
The change began as more residents moved into the neighborhood’s shiny new condo and apartment towers. Retailers soon followed the new residents, who wanted Manhattan-style full-service buildings with easy subway access.
The area still has a way to go to become a true 24-hour neighborhood. Depending on the location, some residents need to venture to adjacent neighborhoods to find decent restaurants and grocery stores.
Prior to Downtown Brooklyn’s residential shift, most of the area was made up of office buildings, courthouses and several academic institutions. In 2004, the city rezoned the area to pave the way for high-rise residential buildings and to upgrade its retail corridors.
Since then, the neighborhood has added more than 20 commercial and residential buildings. The number of housing units has jumped by 4,400. A proposal to designate a portion of the neighborhood as a historical district is pending as well.
Of the 288 residences currently listed for sale on real-estate site StreetEasy.com, the median asking price is $529,825, or $678 a square foot. In neighboring Brooklyn Heights, it is $783 a square foot, and in Dumbo, it is $923, according to StreetEasy.
The Toren at Flatbush and Myrtle avenues is among the new condo buildings that have recently been built. People started moving into the 38-story building in late 2009. A little more than 70% of the building’s 240 units have been sold or are in contract, according to Vanessa Connelly of Halstead Property. Studios in the building start at $307,000, one-bedrooms at $453,000, and two-bedrooms at $464,529.
New rental buildings are also altering Downtown Brooklyn’s skyline. The Brooklyner with 51 floors is now the tallest building in the borough. The tower has 490 apartments and is mostly occupied. Most of the residents are from Manhattan or other parts of Brooklyn, said Elanna Jochimek of Equity Residential. Studios start at $1,930 a month, one-bedrooms at $2,695 and two-bedrooms at $3,595.
commercial buildings in the neighborhood have also been converted into residential housing. The BellTel Lofts was built in the late 1920s as a New York Telephone Co. building. The 27-story Art-Deco building was converted into condos in 2005. Now the historic landmark has 250 residential units with dozens of different floor plans. Prices there range from $299,000 for a studio to $1.89 million a three-bedroom unit.
There is another conversion building at 110 Livingston Street. The 18-story building was previously used as an Elks Lodge and later as office space. It was converted to condos in 2006. A gym was added along with shared outdoor space. There is a three-bedroom unit on the market there for $1.34 million.
Schools: Downtown Brooklyn schools are in District 13. It includes Freedom Academy High School, City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, and George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. Also in the area is Brooklyn International High School and Urban Assembly High School of Music and Art.
In 2010, 41.6% of District 13 students in grades three through eight received a proficient score on the math exam, and 35.4% of students received a proficient score on the English Language Arts exam. In 2006, the results were 48.2% for math and 43% for reading.
Private schools in the neighborhood include Brooklyn Friends School, a Quaker school running from preschool to high school, St. Joseph High School and A. Fantis Parochial School, a Greek Orthodox Christian school. Also in the area is School of Creative & Performing Arts, which offers summer programs for high-school students.
Parks: There isn’t much green space in Downtown Brooklyn. A new 1.25 acre park is being planned called Willoughby Square that would sit atop a parking garage.
In the middle of the civic center, there is also Columbus Park. It hosts a farmer’s market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and has free Wi-Fi. Also nearby is Walt Whitman Park, measuring about three acres. It’s currently being renovated. Other parks in surrounding neighborhoods include Fort Greene Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Entertainment: Downtown is home to the New York Transit Museum where visitors can learn about the history of the city’s subway system. Also in the area is Brooklyn Ballet, a performance space. In the nearby BAM Cultural District, there is the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which has cinema, concerts and theater.
Shopping: The Fulton Street Mall is the main shopping corridor in Downtown Brooklyn and has apparel and shoe stores, banks and a Macy’s. Nearby on Atlantic Avenue there is a Barney’s Co-op and a Trader Joe’s.
Dining: While high-end restaurants are still far and few between in Downtown Brooklyn proper, there is one standout: The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is the only Brooklyn restaurant to receive two Michelin stars. Along Atlantic Avenue there is Bedouin Tent Restaurant, serving Middle Eastern fare, and Rothschild’s, which has Cajun food.
And of course, Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue has been serving its famous cheesecake since 1950.