06/25/14 9:00am

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A beautiful Amzi Hill house built in 1886 but in estate condition at 136 Macdonough Street sold for $1,650,000 at a Kings County public auction yesterday. It was an eye-popping price for a house of its type at auction — so much so that the buyer “got 60 seconds of applause,” according to a developer who attended. Another, smaller house with less elaborate detail at 716 Monroe went for $505,000 at the same event.

“A developer looking guy bought it and I hope he does not ruin this super-intact home,” another tipster said, referring to the house at 136 Macdonough Street, which is 20 feet wide and four stories.

The developer told us he was somewhat skeptical of the recent steep increases in sale prices but said offers for “finished product” and rents “are still booming,” so they seem to be justified.

One of our contacts sent us his photos of 136 Macdonough Street. Click through to the jump to see more. What do you make of the sale?

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A narrow house on a famed block, 22 Arlington Place, is scheduled to close at noon today for $2,250,000, beating the existing record for a sale of a Bed Stuy town house by $50,000. Prices in Bed Stuy have been rising sharply lately.

With an asking price of only $1,850,000 and a width of less than 16 feet, even with a surfeit of immaculate Victorian detail and a recent renovation, 22 Arlington Place did not seem a likely candidate to beat the existing record. The deal is for $400,000 over the asking price.

The highest sale to date was a stunning, Parfitt Brothers-designed Queen Anne townhouse in perfect condition at 254 Gates Avenue near the Clinton Hill border, which traded for $2,200,000 back in January 2013.

The house at 22 Arlington Place was designed by well-known Brooklyn architect Amzi Hill in 1886. A House of the Day in April, it is set up as an owner’s triplex over a garden rental and features new encaustic style tile in the basement, central air, and marble in the kitchen. A house down the street at 7 Arlington Place was the setting for the Spike Lee movie “Crooklyn.”

The seller, an LLC, bought it from an estate last year for $725,000. The agents representing the seller were Halstead’s Bed Stuy brownstone specialists Ban Leow and Morgan Munsey.

22 Arlington Place Listing [Halstead]

04/14/14 9:00am

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A Brooklyn Heights brownstone overlooking the Promenade is asking $16,000,000. If 192 Columbia Heights sells for ask, it will set a record, as The New York Times was the first to point out. So far the record for a townhouse in the Heights is 70 Willow Street, where Truman Capote famously rented, which sold for $12,500,000 in 2012.

This place is 25 feet wide, five stories tall and has nearly 8,000 square feet of space. It is in move-in condition.

Now that prices in “emerging” Brooklyn have about doubled in the last few years, do you think prices in prime Brooklyn will recalibrate? What do you guess it will sell for?

A Townhouse Above the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Asks $16 Million [NY Times]
192 Columbia Heights Listing [Kevin J. Carberry Real Estate/Corcoran]
Photo by Scott Bintner for PropertyShark

04/10/14 9:00am

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In an interesting twist, real estate mogul Jared Kushner is planning to turn three dorm buildings he bought from the Brooklyn Law School back into the single-family brownstones they once were. The three properties are 100 Pierrepont Street, pictured above, 38 Monroe Place and 27 Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights, according to The Real Deal.

There is a high demand for “luxury townhouses” in the neighborhood, which sell for $,200 to $1,600 a square foot, said an associate broker at the Corcoran Group. “These would certainly be absorbed quickly,” she said.

Kushner picked them up along with three other dorms in February $36,500,000. The three other buildings will remain rentals.

This is almost as good as when Steve Jobs bought a Palo Alto bungalow for the purpose of razing it and turning the property back into an apricot orchard. As property values rise in Brooklyn, new townhouse development is on the rise and more owners are jettisoning rentals at the highest end of the market even as developers convert old townhouses into smaller condo units for other buyers.

Kushner to Convert Brooklyn Law Buildings to Mansions [TRD]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

01/21/14 10:45am

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When it comes to real estate in a city like ours, with housing that spans the space of a few hundred years, there are two types of people in the world: old house lovers and new house lovers. The reasons we like what we like are myriad and often complicated, but if one can afford to have a choice in what kind of building they live in, just about everyone has a preference.

A house or apartment is made up of many components, many of which are cosmetic, but one thing that is not is framing. Whether new or old, where we live is made up of walls, ceilings and floors. Two of those components beg the question – plaster or drywall?

I have never lived in a new house. I grew up in a 200-year-old vernacular Italianate farmhouse upstate. When I went to college, I lived my first year in a dorm from the 1890s, followed by three years in another built in the 1930s, designed to look like a medieval college in England. When I moved to New York City, I lived in an Art Deco apartment building in the Bronx, followed by almost 30 years in two different Brooklyn row houses. One was from the late 1870s, the other from 1899. I write this article from a Troy row house from that same year. All of these places had one thing in common – nice thick old plaster walls. (more…)

11/14/13 9:00am

It’s the money shot of the home design world: The pale gray marble mantel with the arch-topped firebox clad in a black iron summer cover. It’s a classic brownstone Brooklyn look, typical of the Italianate brownstones of the 1860s and 1870s that dominate highly desirable Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods such as the Heights, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill.

The arched marble fireplace first started appearing with regularity as a fetish object — a sign that its owner had made it and had the whole brownstone as well as the lifestyle to go with it — in Domino magazine some years ago.

This year, The New York Times reports, the Brooklyn brownstone “is on track to become the aspirational space of the year,” thanks to its appearance in catalogs, ads, and TV shows such as “Girls.” The Times writes:

The Brooklyn brownstone has been fetishized in so many catalogs, ads and television shows, including Design Within Reach, Target and Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” to name a fraction, that location scouts like Andrea Raisfeld of Bedford, N.Y., say it has become the bulk of their business. After rattling off the addresses of seven of her “cash cows,” as she described her most-requested Brooklyn brownstones, Ms. Raisfeld, who has 100 Brooklyn properties in her portfolio, recalled how in the 1990s it was Westport, Conn. — Martha Stewart country — that beckoned.

Do you agree with the Times? What do you think of the interiors they show? Click through to the story to see some really stunning photographs of these covetable spaces, including a magnificently proportioned Clinton Hill Italianate whose frothy yet bold white marble mantel and ornate ceilings make a jaw dropping contrast with inlaid parquet floors and a modern kitchen.

It’s That Brownstone. Again. [NY Times]

11/11/13 9:30am

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Over the weekend, the Times took a look at a miniscule but interesting trend: Converting formerly single family townhouses back into single family townhouses. The paper wrote:

These stately buildings started life as single-family houses sheltering comfortable middle- and upper-class families and their servants. By the Great Depression, most had been chopped into single-room apartments, the unlucky among them getting the greatest wear, as rooming houses for the down and out. In the ‘60s, plucky young New Yorkers with more enthusiasm than cash began buying these down-at-the-heels beauties and spiffing them up for their families, usually retaining tenants who provided rental income and in many cases were impossible to dislodge. In the past few years, the historic townhouse has started to come full circle. Thanks to the growing appetite for larger and more luxurious private urban dwellings among people happy to pay upward of $10 million, many townhouses have been returned to the elegant single-family homes they once were.

In the last few decades, a floor-through apartment (or three) helped most townhouse owners in Brooklyn pay the mortgage — sometimes all of the mortgage. But as prices in certain neighborhoods soar — Brooklyn Heights comes to mind — at a certain point you have to ask if the buyer of an $8,000,000 townhouse really needs or wants a rental unit. (And in fact, it’s increasingly common to see such units labelled “guest suite” on floor plans.) The Times story profiled two couples in Brooklyn turning townhouses into single families.

A family in Prospect Heights plans to use an extra floor as a work space and another area for visiting grandparents. Another family in Park Slope who bought their house some years ago are just now getting around to reconfiguring it for their exculsive use. Above is pictured the restored facade of 1234 Dean Street, whose owner has set up the house as a single family and is converting it from SRO status. It is on the market for $2,195,000.

Of course, there is another countervailing trend that is more common, as prices approach $1,000 a square foot, although the Times didn’t mention it: Developers buy a townhouse in an expensive neighborhood and convert it into condos.

Townhouse Turnaround [NY Times]

11/07/13 11:30am

TEA Parlor Room

Ali Vanderpool and Ariana Villalta were working at a high end design firm in New York City when they decided to take the plunge and open their own residential interior design firm, The Elegant Abode, in 2011. They recently completed a revamp of a parlor floor in a Brooklyn brownstone.

The rooms were previously decorated in a very formal style with traditional fireplaces, red striped silk curtains, and a red Persian rug. The clients asked for a more relaxed and functional space where they could entertain guests and spend time together as a family — including their three girls and the family dog. The designers aimed to create elegant and sophisticated rooms that would also be practical and comfortable.

The designers updated everything, including the fireplaces, floors, millwork, lighting, window treatments and furniture. They chose a neutral palette (their signature), with accents of purple and green. Texture was incorporated in the jagged Mosaic Sentousai stone fireplace and nubby fabrics. They selected “modern, sleek and structured” furniture, including a Pucci bench and credenza from BDDW. The fireplace was designed to be the focus of the room, “without being fussy or formal.” (more…)

11/06/13 11:30am

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In case you’re curious, we have more photos of the Ortner house at 272 Berkeley Place. We took them at the open house in September. On Thursday, as we reported, the price of the house was dropped by $1,000,000. It is now $3,800,000. You can see the listing here and here.

The house appears to be in excellent condition, although substantially altered. Bathrooms and kitchenettes were carved out of bedroom passthroughs to create rentals on the upper floors sometime in the early to mid-20th century. The Ortners converted a bedroom into a library, and placed their own bedroom with en suite bathroom in the rear of the garden floor where the house’s kitchen would have originally been located.

As we noted in the comments on our original post about the house, the ’60s-era kitchen in the extension on the parlor floor is very cute, with patterned tile, metal cupboards, and what looks like soapstone counters. The basement was the neatest and most well organized we have ever seen, and even had pictures on the walls. There was also an impressively cataloged collection of photographs (presumably their own) in a closet in the office (what would have been the house’s original dining room in the front of the garden floor).

Click through to the jump for lots more.

Ortner House Chops $1 Million off Price [Brownstoner]
The House That Helped Launch a Brownstone Revolution Is for Sale [Brownstoner]

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09/30/13 9:00am

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The demand for brownstones has unleashed a mini-boomlet of developers building high-end townhouses in Brooklyn, the New York Daily News reported. “Besides pickles, Pabst and the Park Slope Food Co-op, few things are more coveted in the county of Kings than a pristine brownstone,” said the story. Some are modern, some traditional, and they run about $2,000,0000 or $4,000,0000 each. Notable projects in the brownstone belt and North Brooklyn include:

*Alloy Development’s five modern townhouses on the corner of Pearl and Water in Dumbo, all but one in contract before the ground even broke on construction.
*Hamlin’s award-winning modern 14 Townhouses and 9 Townhouses on State Street in Boerum Hill (pictured above).
*Traditional townhouses at 2,4, and 6 Strong Place.
*The 12 modern-style Williamsburg Townhomes on North Third Street near Bedford, designed by Rothzeid Kaiserman Thomson & Bee and Stan Allen, a former dean of Princeton University School of Architecture.

Do you think they’re an improvement over Fedders-style three-families? If money were no object, would you prefer to live in a new or old row house?

It’s a Fresh Take on Brooklyn’s Beloved Rowhouses [NYDY]