Developer Abby Hamlin knew she was taking a risk when she bought a block of Boerum Hill properties in 2004 in a joint venture with Francis Greenburger's Time Equities.
But Hamlin, a Brooklyn resident and the founder of Hamlin Equities, felt confident in her plan to build 23 new construction townhouses there.
"Boerum Hill was thought to be edgy at that time," she recalls. Still, "I didn't need any convincing. It was within walking distance to everything, had 14 subway lines and was five minutes to Wall Street."
The first phase of her project, known as 14 Town Houses, went on the market in 2007 with the houses listed at around $2 million -- a price point that was "unheard of" for the area at the time, Hamlin says.
But they all sold for $2 million to $3 million and when the first resale occurred this summer, it fetched $3.4 million. Hamlin isn't the only one seeing a return. Boerum Hill -- the 50-block area sandwiched between Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene and Gowanus -- has easy subway access and brownstone-filled blocks. But for years it had a reputation as grittier and less safe than neighboring areas, due in part to the presence of the Gowanus Houses, a public housing project, and the Brooklyn House of Detention. But the area has seen a recent surge in demand from buyers and developers alike.
When it comes to new development, Naini notes that "there's really just not much space" in Boerum Hill.
Still, several new projects are in the works, and some development projects stalled by the financial crisis are now getting back on track.
Permits were renewed for 252 Atlantic Ave., where plans for a 66-unit building were first filed in 2008. Next door is 262-276 Atlantic Ave., an empty lot and three vacant storefronts, which were bought last summer with possible plans for an apartment building, according to permits and city sale records.
In January, Quinlan Development Group bought an old warehouse at 259 Pacific St., and is reportedly planning to build a 60-unit rental there.
Cool and convenient
In 2011, the average sale price of a home in Boerum Hill was $810,915, up 16 percent from $697,318 the previous year, according to data by listings website StreetEasy. By comparison, average prices in Brooklyn as a whole rose 5.9 percent during the same period, to $523,808.
The rental market, particularly, reflected the neighborhood's popularity: In 2012's first quarter, the median asking rent in Boerum Hill rose 14.3 percent to $3,200 per month, up from $2,800 per month in the same period of last year. Throughout Brooklyn, median rents grew 11 percent during that time.
"I remember when Smith, Court and Hoyt were the 'West Side Story' of Brooklyn," says Toqir Choudri, a longtime area resident who manages the Cobble Hill Rapid Realty office.
Then, in 2005, hot Hollywood couple Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams bought a house on Hoyt Street for $3.5 million, focusing attention on the changing demographics of the small neighborhood.
One big shift that's driving the demand for Boerum Hill is new retail along Smith Street.
Boutiques, yoga studios, hip clothing chains and the macaron shop Vendome Haute Parisien Macarons are now in the area.
In the last year, the neighborhood has seen several trendy restaurants open, including Rucola at 190 Dean St., an Italian spot which often has a two-hour wait on weekends. Other newcomers include eatery Burger on Smith; Sottocasa, a pizzeria that made headlines for using a crane to install a 4,000-pound oven into an old brownstone at 298 Atlantic Ave.; and Maimonide of Brooklyn, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant at 525 Atlantic Ave.
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