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Grit and charm in Gowanus

“It’s the last waterfront destination in the entire city that’s undeveloped.”

Gowanus, the South Brooklyn neighborhood surrounding its notorious namesake canal, named a Superfund cleanup site in 2010, has long been a haven for artists, who sought it out for cheaper rents and industrial spaces that could double as studios. Slowly, it’s becoming a prime spot for developers, and a destination for families and young professionals.

In 2013, the addition of a Whole Foods on 3rd Ave was an early sign of change to come. A trendy restaurant scene, spearheaded by the 2012 outlier The Pines, well-respected for its inventive small plates, is now seeing new names like Freek’s Mill, a buzzy farm-to-table establishment, opening its doors in the neighborhood. An established art scene, anchored by popular event spaces and music venues like Littlefield and the Bell House, has made Gowanus a cultural hub in the city.

Now, with rezoning plans underway from the Department of City Planning (which would make way for more residential and mixed use spaces) and the EPA’s $500 million cleanup of the canal (kicking off this year) the area is ripe for development.

Scott Avram, the senior vice president of development at the Lightstone Group, which opened the 430-unit luxury rental 365 Bondin May, with an adjacent development, 363 Bond, nearing completion, compares Gowanus’ transition to what neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Dumbo went through a decade ago. Its conversion of industrial warehouses into “more interesting uses,” from coworking spaces to art galleries to unique businesses like Brooklyn Boulders climbing gym and Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, show that “Gowanus is the next in line,” he says. “It’s the last waterfront destination in the entire city that’s undeveloped.”

Another draw? Proximity. “Developers have been speculating on the area since before the rezoning,” says Justin Fitzsimmons, a research analyst at GFI Realty Services. “You have Cobble Hill to the west, Park Slope to the east; you’re basically surrounded by prime Brooklyn neighborhoods — and that’s what I believe is going to happen to Gowanus.”

Easy access to transportation, like the F and G, DNRW train lines, and a couple stops away from Atlantic Center hub, where riders can catch the 2,3,4,5, Q and B, plus a strong school district (15), add to the area’s desirability.

It’s already pricey, and rents are climbing. According to data from StreetEasy’s 2016 third quarter market report, median asking rents are $2,999 — up 13 percent from 2014’s median of $2650— and the median asking sales price is $917,500.

At 365 Bond, rents range from low $2000s for a studio, to low $3,000s for one-bedrooms, to low $5000s for two-bedrooms, with penthouses and townhouses starting in the $6000s. 20 percent of the units are allotted for affordable housing under Mayor Bill De Blasio’s plan.

One young couple, Alyssa Hoyt, 27 and Alex Hoyt, 39, moved from Hell’s Kitchen into a one-bedroom unit at 365 Bond St in May. They pay $3300 a month in rent. After first looking in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, they found apartments at roughly equivalent rent had tighter space with limited amenities, and no closets, leading them to expand their search.

As a freelance consultant, Alyssa works from home, making use of 365 Bond’s community spaces, like the library, which serves as a coworking space for residents, as well as the gym and yoga classes. About the neighborhood, she says, “We love that there is plenty going on, and we get a little more quiet and space.” They have friends who live nearby, she says, adding that “We love that it borders on [both] Carroll Gardens and the more industrial, entrepreneurial side.” While they don’t have kids yet, Hoyt makes mention of the building's children’s playroom.

More longstanding residents are staying put. Rachel, a 30-year-old community organizer, has lived in the neighborhood for six years. The New York City native says she originally moved to the neighborhood for affordability, and because she had friends in neighboring Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

“I grew up in Greenwich Village in the ‘90s, and Gowanus reminded me of how it was then,” she says. “The mixture of other native New Yorkers and incoming folks in the arts and other non-traditional fields has created a great atmosphere.” She says she’s stayed because her rent has remained affordable, her friends in surrounding blocks are still there, and because “there are still weird parts despite a yuppie avalanche.”

New in the neighborhood

Gowanus Green

From the Hudson Company, the sustainable mixed use redevelopment of a six-acre brownfield is currently in the works. The 790,000 square foot community will include 774 rental and for sale units, with 70 percent allotted for affordable housing—100 of which will be reserved for seniors—plus 65,000 square feet of community and retail space.
At Smith and Fifth Streets

Local Hangs

Freek’s Mill

The farm-to-table, small plates restaurant opened in April and has seen a buzzy response from critics and restaurant-goers. Named after an actual 18th century mill that was located in Gowanus, the cozy, romantic spot sits caddy-corner to the Union Street Bridge. Try the barbecue kohlrabi with grits, and a house Negroni.
285 Nevins St.

 

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