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.
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