Hills & Gardens: New Structure Looms on Court

February 22, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Trudy Whitman

It used to be Carroll Gardens’ biggest hole; now it is the area’s largest conversation piece. When it comes to size, it’s one thing to read articles and study renderings reproduced in newspapers and on blogs; it’s another to watch the steel skeleton for 340 Court Street arise.

Vincent Joseph, a member of the Union-Sackett Block Association, called the project “much too big” in an email exchange with this newspaper, and one that “will never be in context on Court Street.” Joseph added that it is his belief that “City Planning really let the community down with the 70-ft. [height] limit.”

It must be remembered, however, that as of right, the building could have been much taller than its seven stories. What’s more, the structure that it replaced, the former home of the Long Island College Hospital School of Nursing, and before that a healthcare facility for the International Longshoreman’s Association, was neither a beauty nor at all in context, although it was set much farther back from the street and did not dominate the streetscape.

The story of 340 Court exemplifies the boom, the hiatus that followed the explosion of the housing bubble, and the current boomlet of Brooklyn real estate. Purchased in 2007 from LICH by Prudential Real Estate Investors in partnership with the Clarett Group, a Manhattan real estate developer, buildings were soon razed at the site, and a foundation was dug. In addition to the seven-story condo building consisting of 32 two-, three-, and four-bedroom units, the design called for eleven townhouses on Union and Sackett streets. Underground parking for more than 60 vehicles was a feature, as well as street-level retail.

But soon after the housing tumble, the Clarett Group dropped out and, as with many neighborhood projects, stillness prevailed for many months. Then a new partner for Prudential was announced: Alchemy Properties Inc., a Manhattan-based multi-faceted real estate business that not only develops properties but also handles contracting, construction, marketing, sales, and management. In June of 2011, a third partner was announced in a press release; The Davis Companies, a 35-year-old development, investment, and management company, had signed on as co-investor with Alchemy Properties.

Reached by telephone last week, Joel Breitkopf, a principal with Alchemy, said that the construction schedule, aided by the warm weather, was on track, with completion expected for the second quarter of 2013. There has been a lot of interest in the condominiums and townhouses, and his office is keeping an informal list, but Alchemy “is not in a position to start selling right now,” he noted. “We don’t have an offering plan approved yet.” Nor have they decided on a name for the complex.

There is interest as well in the street-level retail space,” Breitkopf continued. “We’re entertaining offers on retail,” he said.

All of the units will feature high-end amenities in addition to the parking, which Breitkopf called “a rare commodity.” “We’re very excited to shortly be able to present the building to the community and to the market.” Alchemy will co-broke the properties with a number of other sales entities, both large and small.

Regarding the relationship with the community as the building progresses, Breitkopf explained that Alchemy has “met with various community organizations over the course of the last eight months,” and although meetings are not regularly scheduled, neighbors are kept apprised of the construction schedule. His office is “certainly accessible if issues arise,” he added. Community relations are “going as well as could have been hoped,” Breitkopf concluded.

Although not in favor of the project, Vince Joseph, the Union-Sackett Block Association liaison, agrees that communication with the developer has been rather smooth. Joseph explained in his email that he is in direct contact with Ken Horn, and has found Alchemy’s founder “very nice and generally open.”

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