A 98-unit luxury rental building -- one of the first of its kind -- is set to open in southern Crown Heights, signaling what could be a new era for real estate in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Within three weeks, developer Nostrand Group LLC plans to start leasing at the Plex, located at 301 Sullivan Place on the corner of Nostrand Avenue. Monthly rents at the Plex (short for "complex") will range from $1,350 for a studio to $2,800 for a 1,100-square foot three-bedroom, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman's Jessica Peters, who is handling rentals at the project with colleague Stephanie O'Brien.
Designed by prolific architect Karl Fischer with interiors by Hadas Metzler, the seven-story building features an attended lobby with a concierge, a garage, two landscaped terraces, a residents' lounge with a billiards table, a movie screening room, a refrigerated Fresh Direct storage room and a 1,500-square-foot fitness center with a separate yoga room.
These kinds of amenities, now common in Manhattan and posh neighborhoods of Brooklyn, are still rare in Crown Heights. The multicultural Brooklyn neighborhood is known for its stunning late 19th- and early 20th-century homes, but "there are very few buildings in Crown Heights that have a doorman and amenities," said Lucien Perry, founder of Lucien Perry Real Estate and a neighborhood resident. "Most of the housing stock tends to be low-rise."
Crown Heights has seen a number of new luxury condos lately, such as 21-unit 904 Pacific Street. Large new rental buildings, however, are scarce.
"It's going to be really nice to see a different type of project come into [Crown Heights]," Peters said, adding: "For the first time in this area, you're seeing something you would see on the Williamsburg waterfront."
Less prosperous than nearby Park Slope, Crown Heights is perhaps best known for its troubled history: In 1991, the neighborhood made national headlines when a riot pitted Hasidic Jews against African-Americans and Caribbean blacks. The area is still home to diverse cultures, including a large West Indian population, and a growing community of Hasidim.
The recession hit the neighborhood hard, with the average price of a Crown Heights home dropping nearly 27 percent to $363,114 in the first quarter of 2009, according to the website Streeteasy.com.
In the past year or so, however, the real estate market in the area has seen "strong price gains," said Sofia Song, vice president of research at Streeteasy.
Between the second quarter of 2011 and the same period of this year, the average sales price in Crown Heights increased nearly 22 percent to $419,957, according to Streeteasy. By contrast, the overall average home sales price in Brooklyn went up 13 percent.
Crown Heights "did quiet down during the recession," said Peggy Aguayo, co-owner of Brooklyn-based brokerage Aguayo and Huebener, but it "is definitely on a rebound."
That's due in part to young people moving to Crown Heights after being priced out of neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Park Slope. That trend has actually accelerated in the past few years, Perry noted, as New Yorkers look to save money on housing.
"People, during the recession, started looking outside the other areas," Perry said. Now, in Crown Heights, "the demographics have shifted dramatically."
In other words, "they've got the hipsters coming," Aguayo said.
But, Perry emphasized that the swath of Crown Heights north of Eastern Parkway -- much of which has now been landmarked -- has "an entirely different dynamic" than the blocks to the south.
New restaurants and bars, like the kosher pizza and wine bar Basil, have opened north of Eastern Parkway along Franklin Avenue, he said. As a result, residential rents in that area "have been stable, even rising," Perry said, estimating that two-bedrooms in the area currently rent for $1,500 to $1,800 per month.
But hipsters and nightlife options haven't yet flocked to southern Crown Heights, where the Plex is located. As a result, the Plex is "an ambitious project, given the location," Perry said.
The building would have to offer "larger space for less money [than other neighborhoods] in order to be viable," Aguayo said.
So does it pass muster?
The three-bedrooms are attractively priced, brokers said.
Aguayo noted: "$2,800 for a three-bedroom is quite a bit less than you'd find in other places."
But, the Plex's monthly rent of $1,350 for a studio "is a little high," Perry said. "That's typically a one-bedroom rate."
"At that price, I would need incentives to bring clients," he added.
Peters said the developers -- also the team behind Williamsburg rental 320 Bedford Avenue which leased all of its 14 units in one day in 2009 -- are currently in the process of deciding which incentives may be offered to potential renters at the Plex. She added that the project's amenities make it a bargain.
In Crown Heights, "you don't really see too many nice rentals," she said. "The majority of the rentals are in brownstones, and a lot of them need rehab. For $1,300, instead of living in a brownstone that hasn't been renovated, you're in an ultra-amenity building." Tags: 301 sullivan place crown heights jessica peters nostrand group llc