Strong Place Townhouses Construction Blog: Intro


For the next few months we’ll be following Brennan Realty Services and their team as they construct three townhouses in Cobble Hill, at the corner of Kane and Strong Place. Site prep began recently. Now, Donald Brennan talks about getting the project on its feet and working with the community to do so…

Hi – Donald Brennan of Brennan Real Estate here. Over the coming months we will be building three townhouses from the ground up at the corner of Strong Place and Kane Street in Cobble Hill. Throughout the course of the project I will periodically share with you insights into our development process. While we haven’t broken ground yet, plan is to do so in late spring/early summer, we have been busy gathering the entitlements from the Landmark Preservation Commission and Department of Buildings and marketing the properties for sale – another hat we wear on the project.
Off-market deal = serendipity + patience. Before I get into where we are with the LPC application here is some of the back-story on the opportunity. I became aware of this off-market deal when I was introduced to the previous owner at a holiday cocktail party in late 2010. While the path to acquiring the land was very circuitous – at a certain point in time someone else was lined up to be the new owner – I hung around the hoop long enough to be in a position to move forward with the purchase once the opportunity came to me a second time. The land I own…

… was once part of a larger parcel that bordered Kane Street and ran from Henry Street to Strong Place. I believe the property has shown up on this blog before. We closed on the purchase at the end of November 2011. Two townhouses fronting on Strong Place and a third building, mid-block on Kane Street, use to occupy the property but were torn down circa 1930. I had the venerable Montrose Morris look into the history of the site and she was unable to figure out why the buildings were demolished – quite the mystery.
Understand community expectations then do the right thing. Well before entering into a purchase agreement, I reached out to the local community leaders, with the assistance of Brendan Coburn (friend, Cobble Hill confidante and former childhood resident of Strong Place), so I could understand what their expectations were for the development of the property. The community desired an historic replication of what may have been designed and built during the 19th Century. Their desire matches well with what most buyers expect to find in Cobble Hill so our agendas are aligned. As a longtime owner of a home located in an historic district and an experienced redeveloper of landmarked properties I understand the need and value of working with members of the community. All too often developers underestimate the community’s interest and cause themselves undue and costly delays by taking a position as foe instead of as ally. One community leader once explained the process of community review and involvement to me as an opportunity to make the project the best it can be. That certainly makes sense to me as the existing residents are the stakeholders and usually have a depth of knowledge an outside developer would not possess. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard developers in neighborhood association meetings say – “I am all about the community, that is how we deal with all our projects. But just so you understand, I am going to do what I want.” My advice – drop the last sentence.
The Landmark Entitlement Roadshow. In the past few weeks CWB Architects have presented the project to the Cobble Hill Association, the Historic Districts Council and Community Board 6. We have the full support of all these entities as we head into our public hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission later this month. We are well prepared but still have the fingers crossed.
On site work – what lies beneath? We recently took some borings (a cylindrical sample of earth strata) and dug some test pits on site so the engineer on the project can understand the subsurface conditions and design the structure accordingly. According to the geotechnical engineer on the site there is good sandy soil below a couple of feet of fill. This is good news as current building code requires us to manage all storm water runoff on site. Check out our video of some of the “boring” activity.
If there anything particular you are interested in learning about regarding our development process please let me know so we can try and incorporate it into future posts.

www.brennanrealtyservices.com is a Brownstoner advertiser

24 Comment

  • Good luck, Donald. Look forward to following along.

  • Good luck, Donald. Look forward to following along.

  • Problem is price:
    $6M and $4+M is too expensive for a 17′ wide brownstone in cobble hill

    • Hi fsrq – a few observations about the market. According to public data approx 5 townhouses (1 and 2-fam) have traded hands per year in Cobble Hill since second half ’07. For properties we categorize as above average (as it relates primarily to condition) the avg closed $psf price was $982. While most of these properties were in good condition none of them were new – ie modern well organized spaces that were delivered with finishes, appliances, etc that the owner specified (that is the development model we are employing here, a residential build-to-suit of sorts).
      The two most recent 17′ wide townhouse transactions that have occured went for $982 and $1,127 per sq ft. I understand 30 Strong Place a 17′ wide townhouse is in contract after only 14 days on the market. Selling broker didn’t even have a chance to host an open house. I expect the deal to be done at least at the asking price of $2.8 ($823/sf) if not above. While this is a perfecetly charming looking home (viewing the listing pics as I did not have the opportunity to tour the property) it is probably at least 140 years old and probably in need of some updating. Rehab could probably run you at least $200 psf (I think I am being very generous here). So approx $1,025 all in.
      Our 4 Strong Place townhome (the most comparable to 30 Strong) is asking $3,950,000 or $1,050 per sq ft. This is the full asking price – ie it does not include discounts associated with a pre-construction purchase, which could bring the acquisition price well under $1,000 psf.
      So considering past sales and recent market activity I would say that if anything we are below market when you consider that our product is brand new and customized to the owners standards.

    • Hi fsrq – a few observations about the market. According to public data approx 5 townhouses (1 and 2-fam) have traded hands per year in Cobble Hill since second half ’07. For properties we categorize as above average (as it relates primarily to condition) the avg closed $psf price was $982. While most of these properties were in good condition none of them were new – ie modern well organized spaces that were delivered with finishes, appliances, etc that the owner specified (that is the development model we are employing here, a residential build-to-suit of sorts).
      The two most recent 17′ wide townhouse transactions that have occured went for $982 and $1,127 per sq ft. I understand 30 Strong Place a 17′ wide townhouse is in contract after only 14 days on the market. Selling broker didn’t even have a chance to host an open house. I expect the deal to be done at least at the asking price of $2.8 ($823/sf) if not above. While this is a perfecetly charming looking home (viewing the listing pics as I did not have the opportunity to tour the property) it is probably at least 140 years old and probably in need of some updating. Rehab could probably run you at least $200 psf (I think I am being very generous here). So approx $1,025 all in.
      Our 4 Strong Place townhome (the most comparable to 30 Strong) is asking $3,950,000 or $1,050 per sq ft. This is the full asking price – ie it does not include discounts associated with a pre-construction purchase, which could bring the acquisition price well under $1,000 psf.
      So considering past sales and recent market activity I would say that if anything we are below market when you consider that our product is brand new and customized to the owners standards.

  • Problem is price:
    $6M and $4+M is too expensive for a 17′ wide brownstone in cobble hill

  • My 1929 E. Belcher Hyde Map indicates two townhouses facing Strong: 2 and 4 and two on Kane (then Harrison) mid-block: 162 and 164. An 1889 notice in the Eagle mentions that the Eliot Preparatory School for Girls and Boys will re-open at no. 4 Strong.

  • Looks promising. I like the slight setbacks in the facade. Classical cornices. Nice touch. Hope the actual brick appears as rendered. How wide and deep are these puppies?

    ***Half Peak Comps Euroding***

  • Looks like it will fit right in. I would just encourage you to be a good new neighbor regarding noise and hours of construction. The five year process of converting the church down the block was endless with particularly thoughtless practices like picking up dumpsters at 4 AM, etc.

    • Hello carolgardens – thanks and we will do our best to be good neighbors. If everything goes smoothly we hope to start construction in June of this year and finish by late summer 2013. Let me know if anything occurs that you feel is not sensible or thoughtful.

    • Hello carolgardens – thanks and we will do our best to be good neighbors. If everything goes smoothly we hope to start construction in June of this year and finish by late summer 2013. Let me know if anything occurs that you feel is not sensible or thoughtful.

  • Attempting to remake an architecture that they were not trained in is almost a slap in the face to the pre-war architects. Its a shame one cannot move forward with contemporary architecture that fits the existing neighborhood and compliments it without copying it. Rogers Marvel’s state street town houses is a great example.

    • Hello calixander – not sure if yours is a general lament or specific to this property. Each historic district has their own view on what type of architecture is appropriate. In our case what we are proposing is what the community desires. If this lot were located say in Brooklyn Heights a more contemporary (high quality) approach would most likely be embraced.

  • quite an amazing location! love both strong place and kane…nice and quite.
    looking forward to following the posts!

  • Donald,
    What is envisioned for the two extra wide houses facing Henry St? We have walked by these for years wondering what could be done there.

  • Donald,
    What is envisioned for the two extra wide houses facing Henry St? We have walked by these for years wondering what could be done there.

    • Hi brucef – I am not exactly sure. They are currenly rental properties and the owners are doing some improvement work on them. I do not have any ownership stake in them. I only own the vacant parking lot on the Strong Place side.

      • I always wondered about them, too. They have a fascinating history: Chemists Club, Hari Krishna Headquarters, convent, etc. as I recall. The first floors looked unoccupied with shredded window treatments, and for years, cracked window. Some work going on recently, though. I love that stone wall with the door along Kane…is it yours?

  • Buyer Beware! This company is known for taking shortcuts in the actual building process by using less expensive and somewhat incompetent vendors. They use lovely fixtures in the finishing process though.

  • Buyer Beware! This company is known for taking shortcuts in the actual building process by using less expensive and somewhat incompetent vendors. They use lovely fixtures in the finishing process though.