Work Starts to Restore and Rent Long-Neglected Eyesore on Gates in Clinton Hill

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A once-grand Italianate brownstone has stood empty and disfigured on the corner of Gates and St. James Place in Clinton Hill for 18 years. It appears the new owner of 109 Gates Avenue may finally be getting ready to restore it and fill it with occupants, recent work and a rental listing reveal.

It won’t house a restaurant, as some in the area had hoped, but could be home to a store or offices, the LoopNet listing says. The once-beautiful facade will be restored to its 1908 appearance per a plan approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission back in 2003, complete with multiple charming bay windows, an old-fashioned iron staircase on the side, and old-timey storefronts on the first and second floors.

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The building in 2012. Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

A visit to 109 Gates Avenue last week revealed work has started on the storefronts, where new framing has replaced the old facades. When we stopped by, workers were pouring a new sidewalk. A sign on the building touts commercial space and “four luxurious residential apartments.”

The commercial space has 1,000 square feet on the ground floor and 600 square feet of storage space in the cellar space below, the listing says. A second space, on the parlor level, is also for rent.

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The storefront in 2015. Photo by Cate Corcoran

At 800 square feet, it can be used as an apartment or office or combined with the commercial space below. Both are available for rent “immediately,” according to the listing — despite being under construction. The other four apartments are not yet on the market.

The building sold most recently to Mainstay Dre IA LLC for $2.861 million in a foreclosure auction in 2015. The LLC appears to have been financially involved in the property since at least 2012.

The owner is Diana Gordon Sacchetti of DGS Properties, according to Department of Buildings filings. Sacchetti is also the broker on the listing.

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Records at the Department of Buildings show an an Alt 2 application was filed in 2016 with Eric N. Schiller listed as the architect of record. The application doesn’t change the use, egress or occupancy. Renovations include stairs, interior partitions and ceilings.

Landmarks approved work on the facade in April 2017, including installing new storefronts and cornices at the ground and second floors, replacing a missing stair, installing new windows and correcting outstanding violations on the property. The permit notes that the entrance, window surrounds and stairs will be restored based on photographic evidence and physical evidence on site.

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Plans for the restoration. Image via LoopNet

Landmarks had previously held a public hearing and approved a restoration plan back in 2003, but the work was never carried out. Landmarks issued an additional permit this May for the replacement of the sidewalk around the property.

The brownstone, along with its neighbors 111-117 and 108-116 Gates Avenue, was built around 1866 by builder John Funk, according to the Clinton Hill designation report. All the houses originally had brownstone fronts, rusticated basements, double doors, wooden cornices and dormer windows.

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In 1908, 109 Gates was altered to accommodate retail. A notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on October 10 of that year stated the building had been sold to R. G. Langdon, who would be remodeling it “into a store and apartments at the cost of $6,000.”

In 2000, the Italianate row house caught fire. It has been languishing ever since. In 2005, a group of investors bought it for $1.1 million and renovated in fits and starts. The next year, it traded for $2 million to another LLC.

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Early 20th century view of the storefronts. Photo via LoopNet

In 2007, after a Home Depot-style renovation on the top three floors, the owner put it on the market for $2.8 million. It didn’t sell, and then the real estate market crashed.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission slapped it with several violations, including one in 2008 for work in non-compliance with a previously issued certificate of appropriateness.

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The corner of Gates and St. James Place in 1941. Photo by P.L. Sperr via New York Public Library

The photographic evidence for restoration of the early 20th century storefronts includes an image from circa 1910 showing Peirce’s Pharmacy on the ground floor and a tailor above. By the 1920s, the St. James Beauty Shop was doing business in the building, offering the latest in hair bobbing and marcelling.

By the time of a 1941 photo, D. Hennessey, a grocer, was occupying the ground floor. The circa 1939 tax photo shows a similar view of the storefronts.

[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]

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