Fourth Avenue: Gentrification or Ghettoization?

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In this month’s Real Deal, our own Gabby Warshawer checks in on what was supposed to be the “new Park Avenue,” a rezoned 4th Avenue whose up-to-12-story buildings and subsequent creative entrepreneurialism would transform the hood. Well…not so fast. “Because of the credit crunch, a number of buildings that were initially planned as condos will now come to market as rentals. The frenzied pace of construction of new residential projects should also slow, due to a dearth of easily developable lots,” they write. “In fact, development sites on the strip that are actually selling are fetching far less now than they were just a few years ago.” Those creative entrepreneurs can’t very well open retail in buildings that don’t have retail space, as is the case with many of the new mammoth structures. (Northern 4th Avenue, though, where fewer buildings have been razed and replaced, has a couple of retail hits with Sheep Station and the Ethiopian restaurant Ghenet). Those buildings that finished before the financial meltdown fared pretty well, though. The Argyle (a former advertiser) is 70 percent sold, and the Crest and Novo reported healthy sales, too.
Fourth Avenue on Slippery Slope [The Real Deal]

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  • Lisa,

    Ghenet is an Ethiopian restaurant, not Egyptian.

  • I really hope 4th avenue becomes what they have hoped it would be.

  • not putting retail in those buildings was one of the dumbest ideas ever.

  • Thanks for the correction, prodigal son.

  • No problem, Lisa.
    Haven’t been to the Brooklyn Ghenet but the one in Manhattan is a wonderful spot. Great food and romantic atmosphere. Their new location is a gamble, hope they make it.

  • 4th Avenue…the hood? I’m sorry that’s the dumbest thing I’ve read in a long time. 4th Ave is desolate but its not hood at all. And the term Ghettoization…what the hell is that. I would enjoy a day that the term Ghetto and Brooklyn aren’t in the same sentence, especially when it comes to parts of Brooklyn. Its starting to become offensive. Any place Minorities out number whites is now suddenly termed Ghetto on Brownstowner.

  • Well 4th Ave has a LOT potential – close to 5th Ave, 2 subway stations, some cultural interest, etc. But it will require a lot of effort both in the private and public sector to make it really shine. High rise on the 4th Ave side is good since the Ave is very wide. The city needs upgrade the center divide (trees, grass, etc).

  • Ghenet is delicious. I wish there were more reasons to head down to 4th ave, but it’s still pretty desolate. The stalled condo developments have, unfortunately, negatively contributed to its appearance instead of improving it, and there’s nothing to do there. Why are all of these buildings going up without retail space? How is 4th Ave supposed to cultivate the restaurants and shops that will make it appealing if there’s no space for them?

  • Park Avenue doesn’t have retail. The problem with Fourth Avenue is not the lack of retail.

    The failure is due to city not zoning the entirety of the street from Atlantic Avenue to Prospect Avenue as residential. The tax depot will forever be an eyesore. The gas stations will never be replaced with housing.

    There is also the issue that Fourth Avenue is a highway. Had they made a large park median, things could be different. Instead however, we have a 4-6 lane highway with lights that encourage grossly violating the citywide 25 mph speed limit.

  • denton

    There’s no retail cuz the new buildings are zoned at street level for ‘community service’ uses.

    P, I know you hate fast driving, but the speed limit is 30mph unless o/w posted

  • East New York

    “Any place Minorities out number whites is now suddenly termed Ghetto on Brownstowner.”

    Suddenly? Ha! Shamefully, that sort of coded language been liberally applied by too many posters on this site for as long as I can recall.

    I’m no architect, but many of the residential buildings I see going up on 4th AV don’t appear to be particularly well constructed or designed. I’m just saying.

  • A couple of points:

    Agree with the other couple posters that using the word “gehttoization” is unimaginative, gratuitous, and inaccurate.

    Polemicist is absolutely right, Fourth Avenue is pretty much a highway in practice, and as such will never be the most desirable place to live when compared with the blocks on either side of it. The building boom there is purely a function of the number of people wanting to live in Park Slope vs. the inability to build anywhere else. At the right price point, people will live there. Unless something changes, it’s not going going to be a prime shopping or residential location just because zoning was chnaged to allow the contruction of large buildings.

  • It will take another 15-20 years but it will get there. And that is not being pessimistic. Look at how far Boerum Place and Atlantic Avenue came in this market upturn. It all started 20 years ago, but stopped in the 90s and then kicked up even more in the last 5 years. The same thing will happen with 4th. These things just never complete in one real estate cycle. People who buy now and stay will do well.

  • I live off of 4th ave. It has certainly come a long ways and will continue to improve, but the poor quality of the new architecture is not helping. 4th ave needs its own aesthetic committee.

  • “The gas stations will never be replaced with housing.”

    What about this site that used to be a gas station?

    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2008/11/development_wat_307.php

    “Choice Construction began work on this 95,000sf, poured-in-place concrete superstructure project early in 2008. Once built, it will serve as a mixed use facility, containing both retail shopping and residential condominiums.”.

  • Snark:

    Clearly, I was referring to the ones on M1 zoned land, like the one at the corner of Union Street and Fourth Avenue.

    Does anyone remember the gas station that used to be where the Commerce Bank now stands?

  • Thank you for the correction Denton.

  • oh wow that commerce bank used to be a gas station? that’s my corner! (well my building is right off the parking lot of the commerce bank) last week they changed the signs and name of the bank from commerce to something called D1 or 1D or something.

    -rob

  • I agree with polemicist (yikes!) on the median idea, having a speedway, which can be dangerous for drivers, let alone pedestrians and cyclists, does not help improve 4th Ave’s chances of becoming a residential destination.

    As to the “ghetto” comment, I believe the point was to make ref to the 1980′s and early 1990′s glut of housing a dearth of buyers or median income renters. With no one to rent to, the default goes to the potential lowest common denominator. While things could spring back, 4th Ave could become not quite the type of housing the Borough Pres, nor Katan, were looking for in their grand schemes.

    And can someone please do an article on the sustainability as the City is cutting programs, schools are overcrowded, utilities are overtaxed, etc? Perhaps some of these new developments can pay into that system, but that would be very capitalist of me to suggest, would it?

  • You people are very impatient – as BH76 said – these things take decades to be fully realized.

    The current buildings will beget residence who demand improvements – like landscaping – which will go a long long way to making 4th Avenue (And its current buildings) far more attractive and livable. As the foot traffic increases – retail will come in – (where else will you be able to get large contiguous space, near the subway and car traffic in Brownstone Brooklyn).
    The retail and increased foot traffic will get more building in the next cycle and then the varied (and yes some ugly) architecture will look a lot nice and more interesting and finally end in 4th Ave being an appreciated (if not exactly coveted) address.

    I do believe however the current developers did themselves a financial disservice by not putting in Retail right away.

  • The speeding could easily be curbed if the city were to change the timing of the lights along 4th Ave. As the area becomes more residential and has more pedestrians due to more retail, I think that would be likely. The avenue reminds me in some ways of W. Houston Street when I first moved there a couple of decades ago.

    BTQ Sheep Station on 4th Ave and Douglass is my favorite pub – even though I live considerably closer to 7th and 5th Aves. The pub has great food, awesome beer, and a really nice decor and vibe. Check it out if you haven’t already!

  • Whoops, I meant “BTW” not “BTQ”

  • Kris is correct. An adjustment on the lights can easily solve the speeding part. This was done in Queens Blvd – aka the Blvd of Death. And 4th Ave is narrower and gets much less traffic than QB.