If there is one word that could summarize Downtown Brooklyn it is transformation.
The northwestern Brooklyn neighborhood, known for many years as a place where people only worked and shopped, now boasts a burgeoning residential real estate market and is quickly becoming a 24/7 hub.
“What makes this area great is that it's its own city,” said Alan Washington, director of real estate and planning at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a not-for-profit local development corporation. “We have 11 subways, 16 bus lines and 11 colleges with over 60,000 students. And there is a strong retail presence.”
According to Washington, the 2004 rezoning of the neighborhood led to the boom in residential development. He noted that there were more than 5,000 residential units built in the first wave of the rezoning between 2004 and today. Now, 12,500 units are in the pipeline, 8,000 of which are set to break ground and be revealed within the next two to three years.
The residential growth is also transforming the nabe into more than a place of offices, courtrooms and clothiers; it’s quickly becoming a visitor destination. In recent years six new hotels settled into the area including the Nu Hotel on Smith Street and Hotel Indigo on Duffield Street.
“It's changing extravagantly,” said Jay Molishever, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats. “It's not a sleepy area; I would say it's similar to TriBeCa.”
He said some of its most striking residences are the high-rises such as the BellTel Lofts on Bridge Street, The Oro on Gold Street, and Be@Schermerhorn on Schermerhorn Street in addition to projects like The Hub, also on Schermerhorn Street, which is currently being constructed.
He noted that developers in the area are also restoring brownstones or performing ground-up construction of modern low-rise houses between four and eight stories high.
According to Molishever, a typical one-bedroom co-op in Downtown Brooklyn ranges anywhere between $550,000 and $700,000. A two-bedroom co-op runs from $700,000 to $900,000.
“What attracts people is the lively atmosphere and the mix of high-density and low-density housing, or the typical Brooklyn brownstone homes along State Street,” he said.
Downtown Brooklyn is home to a high concentration of higher learning institutions including Long Island University, City University of New York’s New York City College of Technology and the recent merge of Polytechnic Institute and New York University into the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
But it also boasts a variety of cultural institutions like Roulette, The New York Transit Museum and the acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which serves as Brooklyn’s Lincoln Center and anchors the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District.
Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, noted that an influx of higher-end retail establishments such as Nordstrom Rack and Armani Exchange, have added to the main shopping strip, Fulton Mall’s, allure.
During the day Downtown Brooklyn is alive with office workers lunching, students lounging, and tourists and shoppers mixed in with residents. At night the neighborhood's denizens head to the entertainment venues and to nearby neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Perris said.
But he also noted a distinct difference between the weekdays and weekend.
“On the weekend you really see the residential character come out,” he said. “You see much more families walking around going to destinations; they're not camouflaged by tourists or workers.”
But despite all the change, some misconceptions of Downtown Brooklyn remain.
“Some still think it’s unsafe or of it being only an office district,” Washington said. “But this is a 24/7 community, not one that closes at 5 p.m.”
Besides a small restaurant scene on Smith Street and a few eateries dashed along its quiet, tree-lined side roads, both Perris and Washington admit Downtown Brooklyn isn’t quite yet a food or nightlife hotspot.
“There isn’t a supermarket here either,” Perris said.
He noted that it’s a necessity for the neighborhood as it becomes more residential.
“We need more local nightlife destinations,” Washington said. “But those sort of things will come.”
Perris also noted that parents would like to see an elementary school within the neighborhood; another necessity as it becomes more livable.
Yet with those missing links, he said people are still interested moving to Downtown Brooklyn.
“What really makes it unique is how central it is. Other than midtown [Manhattan], name another neighborhood that’s better served with transportation,” he said. “People know exactly what they're getting and they're very excited to live here.”