Brooklyn Heights

‘Home Improvement,’ à la Brooklyn Heights

Eye On Real Estate

October 8, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Brooklyn Heights, where renovation projects are sprouting all over the place. The brownstone at left which is getting a makeover, 76 Willow St., is a former Watchtower property. Truman Capote lived in the yellow house at right, 70 Willow St.
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Preservation and restoration contractors are busy, busy, busy in that most august of landmarked brownstone neighborhoods, Brooklyn Heights, where a plethora of renovation projects is underway following recent high-ticket home sales.

Some renovations of these treasured historic houses are being done by purchasers who want to remodel their homes to suit their personal aesthetics — within the boundaries set forth by city landmarking laws — or repair venerable building façades.

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Other renovations are being carried out by developers who paid big bucks for the houses and hope to profit through resales or rentals when the work is finished.

Among the latter, there’s the planned makeover of 1830s-vintage brick Greek Revival rowhouse 15 Willow St. — which belonged to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor — into a single-family home with a rooftop terrace and an elevator. Proposed changes to the property also include the installation of glass windows in window frames that have been filled in with bricks since the 19th Century.

“I would love to live in that house,” Damian Zunino, who’s a partner in the LLC that purchased it for $4.81 million in June, told Eye on Real Estate. But when the renovation is completed, “we’re going to put it on the market,” he said.

Zunino, a partner at design firm Studio DB, spoke to us briefly after a Sept. 30 public hearing the Landmarks Preservation Commission held. Commissioners did not vote that day on the remodeling plans he presented.

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said in testimony that her organization’s Landmarks Committee did not support the version of the proposal he initially presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

After Zunino made changes to the plan, which were suggested by the city preservation agency, the commissioners approved his revised renovation proposal on Oct. 7.

Construction crews are already working inside the historic house on the corner of Middagh Street.

By the way, an interesting tidbit about Zunino: He’s a grandson of the late Bernhard M. Auer, who was the publisher of Time.

Here’s the skinny on fix-up projects at several other recently sold Brooklyn Heights homes:

* 101 WILLOW ST.: Ryan Chang is having interior architectural and plumbing work done at his Greek Revival 1830s-vintage brick home, Buildings Department records indicate.

“I’m renovating 101 [Willow] with an emphasis on the historic charm and class of Brooklyn Heights,” Chang told Eye on Real Estate.

He said he fell in love with single-family 101 Willow St. because of its 29-foot-wide corner lot, “ample light” from more than 40 windows and its “premium location” one block from the water.

“I’ve been in the Brooklyn townhouse market for almost 10 years, and I haven’t seen a lot like this available until 101 [Willow] came online,” he said.

An LLC with Chang as its sole member and manager bought the house for $7.275 million in July, city Finance Department records indicate.

The house will be his personal residence, as opposed to a flip or an income-generating rental.

* 44 MONROE PLACE: William Whamond obtained city Buildings Department permits to do interior apartment renovation and related mechanical work and “combine apartments on [the] third floor” of the stately 1830s-vintage brick rowhouse with a brownstone basement. He and his wife Ashley bought 44 Monroe Place for $5.75 million in March, Finance Department records show.

* 37 REMSEN ST.: Jeremy Healey told us he and his family plan to live in this Italianate townhouse once renovations are finished. (It’s not an investment property for them.)

They expect to sell their current home, 40 Orange St., around the same time, he said.

A Buildings Department permit indicates that two-family 37 Remsen St. will be converted to a single-family home. He and his wife Megan McKee Healey bought the property for $7.01 million in May, Finance Department records show. 

* 51 JORALEMON ST.: Peter McCormick is having renovation work done at this 1840s-vintage Greek Revival rowhouse.

“We fell in love with the entire neighborhood,” he told Eye on Real Estate. Also, easy access to Brooklyn Bridge Park was a factor in choosing a home on this block, he said.

He and Denise McCormick bought two-family 51 Joralemon St. last year for $3.735 million, Finance Department records show.

The work includes excavation in the front areaway and rear yard, the removal of a chimney in the rear of the house and roof replacement.

* 108 JORALEMON ST.: This house is The One for Michelle Brindley and her family.

“Initially, we were averse to doing a renovation but after looking at many move-in ready properties for over a year we decided to open our minds to something that ‘needed work’ so that we could create a family home that we could live and grow in for many years,” Brindley, the co-owner of 108 Joralemon St., told Eye on Real Estate.

She’s having the 1840s-vintage brick property on the corner of Henry Street converted from a five-family building into a single-family home, a Buildings Department permit indicates.

She and her husband Scott Brindley bought 108 Joralemon for $3.21 million last year, Finance Department records show.

They realized they needed more space after their second child was born — they’re living in a two-bedroom apartment.

One of the reasons they wanted to buy a Brooklyn Heights house is that their children attend Public School 8.

“When 108 Joralemon went on the market, we were immediately interested as we couldn’t have put a pin on a better location,” Michelle Brindley recounted.

Also, the house has huge windows on three sides — and parking.

An interesting tidbit in the Finance Department records: 108 Joralemon had belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses until its sale to an investor group in 2005.

By the way, construction is also underway now at two other historic Brooklyn Heights properties that the Watchtower sold in the past year or two, 76 Willow St. and 105 Willow St. Both are being changed from five-family buildings into single-family homes.

* 24 GARDEN PLACE: Sarah Lyall, a New York Times writer, hired high-profile architect Jonathan Marvel for her home renovation. Marvel has drawn up plans for the conversion of the red-brick townhouse from a two-family home into a single-family home and the addition of a penthouse, Buildings Department records indicate. Construction crews are already at work inside.

Lyall bought 24 Garden Place for $5.2 million last year, according to Finance Department records.

Marvel Architects designed the makeover of DUMBO’s historic Tobacco Warehouse into a theater for St. Ann’s Warehouse. 

* 48 GARDEN PLACE: Peter Stern is having this 1880s-vintage neo-Grec brownstone renovated. A Buildings Department construction permit identifies him as the owner of 48 Garden Place.

An LLC that shares his Tribeca address bought the single-family Garden Place house for $7.5 million in April, Finance Department records show.

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