How high will Heights project go?

Eye On Real Estate: Luxury Apartment Builder Assembles Remsen Street Development Site

November 13, 2013 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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How high will new development rise on Remsen Street?

The Manhattan luxury apartment builder who paid $2.79 million for derelict two-story 153 Remsen St. earlier this year just bought two neighboring properties, creating a sizable development site in sought-after Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has learned.

An LLC formed by Upper West Side-based Quinlan Development Group paid $4.94 million last month for 155 Remsen St. and $6.16 million for 157 Remsen St., city records indicate. They’re tiny walk-up residential buildings with retail space, so what’s the big deal?

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The answer: Unused air rights and a location just outside the neighborhood’s two historic districts, so there’s no height restriction on construction and developer Timothy Quinlan doesn’t need the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to okay his plans.

“You can build a heck of a building,” one real estate source said. “You can build tall, you can build dense – it’s part of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.”

The three properties have a combined 73,600 square feet of developable space, records from real estate site indicate.

The development site could have been bigger – but the owner of 151 Remsen St., who was also approached about selling, said he wasn’t interested.

“I’m happy with my investment,” landlord Domenick Sblendorio told the Eagle.

Tax ramifications might make rental-apartment construction more appealing to the developer than a condo project, the real estate source said. The residential building Quinlan’s firm is constructing at 267 Pacific St. in Boerum Hill is a rental.

The developer’s glam glass and limestone tower on Sixth Avenue in SoHo, One Vandam, is a condo project – but condos in that neighborhood can go for $3,200 per square foot, making it worthwhile to tackle the tax issue, while $1,400 per square foot is more like it in Brooklyn Heights.

Quinlan declined to comment: “At this time we are not prepared to discuss the potential project as it’s too early,” his executive assistant said via email.

The seller of both 155 and 157 Remsen was Carl A. Zerbo of Dorado Holding Corp., who signed the deeds while in Naples, Fla. His wife Heidi didn’t want to talk about the couple’s reasons for letting go of the Brooklyn Heights properties.

“We’re pretty private people; we’ll keep that information to ourselves,” she said. He’s the son of the late Carl J. Zerbo, a noted Brooklyn Heights landlord.

The late Fred Musser, who previously owned 153 Remsen, made plans five years ago to turn the property into a small hotel, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle previously reported. His plans didn’t get off the drawing board – and the building is an eyesore with broken windows, a rarity in the Heights.

Quinlan would likely begin demolition of his Remsen Street buildings in six to nine months. Already, 157 Remsen tenant Hair Profiles closed because of the building sale and three employees moved to a Pineapple Street salon.

Customers of Wi-Pie at 155 Remsen are upset its days are numbered; it’s the go-to pizza parlor for neighboring St. Francis College students. On Fridays, Wi-Pie dishes out free pizza if you “like” them on Facebook.

“I can’t live without my free slice,” said Janine Krol, 20, a St. Francis College sophomore.

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