Brooklyn Heights

Bellissimo! Montague Street palazzo could be ready for residents in August

Eye On Real Estate: Brooklyn Trust Company Building condos are now on the sale market

May 20, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Trust Company Building condos will have a Pierrepont Street entrance with a canopy, shown here behind the tree at left. Rendering by DBOX
Share this:

Here’s a new way for people to live in Brooklyn Heights — inside a bank that looks like a palazzo in Romeo and Juliet’s hometown.

We’re talking about the condos being created on the upstairs floors of the Brooklyn Trust Company Building at 177 Montague St., an individual city landmark designed a century ago by distinguished bank architecture firm York & Sawyer.

Construction crews are heading into the home stretch of the Stahl Organization’s project to convert office space formerly occupied by Cullen and Dykman — the law firm that represented the builders of the Brooklyn Bridge — into 12 residential condos.

“They had some of the ugliest offices I’d ever seen,” Bill Ross, director of Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing, told Eye on Real Estate during a recent hard-hat tour of the property. “The real challenge was to take that ugly, awful office and turn it into lovely apartments. It was a terrible challenge.”

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The residential entrance is being built at 138 Pierrepont St. in what was the law firm’s lobby. Just past the entryway, an erstwhile bank vault will be made into a “wheels room” for strollers and bicycles.  

The residential conversion, designed by Barry Rice Architects, started in 2012.

“We expect to be finished in August,” Ross said.

The building, whose landmarked, mosaic-floored banking hall is occupied by a Chase branch, was modeled after the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Verona.

We haven’t visited Verona, except in our dreams. But in photos, the original palazzo there — built for military purposes and completed in 1836 — bears an uncanny resemblance to the Brooklyn Heights version.

Prospective buyers on the waiting list for 18 Months

Ross’s group at Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing is exclusively handling sales of the apartments on the corner of Montague, Clinton and Pierrepont Streets. Asking prices will be as high as approximately $4.2 million.

Sales launched May 11 with the release of three of the 12 condos to the market: Two three-bedroom units with asking prices of $3.248 million and $3.348 million and a four-bedroom duplex on the top two floors of the six-story property with a $3.76 million asking price.

Prior to the sales launch, 175 people had put their names on a waiting list for the condos, Ross said. Some of them signed up 18 months ago.

By the way, there is a 13th apartment under construction in the building — for a live-in super. The property will also have a doorman.

As we’ve reported previously, the Stahl Organization has experience with York & Sawyer-designed bank buildings. A few years ago, the developer turned the upper floors of the Apple Bank at Broadway and W. 73rd Street on the Upper West Side into condos.

Hark —that’s Shakespeare outside the window

On our hard-hat tour with Ross and photographer colleague Rob Abruzzese, we got a sneak peek at the  progress that has been made on the Brooklyn Trust Company Building’s apartment interiors.

We saw intriguing details such as massive sixth-floor skylights — because there aren’t any windows on that floor of the building.

The skylights have been modified so that they can be opened and shut by remote control. Before, they weren’t operable.

Some apartments have dramatic steel trusses smack in the middle of them. The big beams are fireproofed with intumescent paint and left standing with no walls to hide them.

Montague and Clinton are busy streets, but rooms that face them will be quiet thanks to “enormously thick and strong” outside walls and newly installed double-paned sound-abatement windows, Ross said.

During the course of interior demolition, workers uncovered surprises of all sorts that required design changes.

“It was so confusing in here. It was really hard,” Ross said. “I tip my hard hat to Barry Rice.”

An example of a good surprise was the discovery of an irregularly shaped space near an exterior wall that is being turned into a kitchen pantry.

There were good surprises of another sort outside the windows. From one condo with a Clinton Street view, a bust of William Shakespeare on the exterior of the neighboring Brooklyn Historical Society loomed so close, we could have tossed him a sprig of rosemary for remembrance.

(Yes, Bard lovers, the rosemary’s from Ophelia’s speech in “Hamlet.”)

From this window, the inscription “Historia Testis Temporum” on BHS’s façade was easy to see. The first reader to send us the correct translation of this Latin expression without Googling it gets lunch on Montague Street. Email it to [email protected] — and don’t tarry, or a faster typist will beat you to the punch.

Other fine views include looks at St. Ann’s Church and Romanesque Revival condo building 166 Montague St. See related story for additional photos of 166 Montague as you’ve never seen it before — unless you worked at Cullen and Dykman.

A fireplace is a fine thing to have

Inside 138 Pierrepont, we noticed special features combined in different ways so that no two apartments are exactly alike.

One apartment had a living room with a fireplace in what had been the Brooklyn Trust Company president’s office when the building was first constructed.

In another, we saw a bedroom with a ceiling so high that if you installed a rock-climbing wall, you’d get serious exercise.

“We wanted the apartments to be as special as the building,” Ross said.

On the floor directly above the three-story-high banking hall, demolition was done by workers holding hammers in their hands — no machinery allowed — so as not to disturb the bank branch’s vaulted, coffered ceiling.

The developer did just two things to the building’s exterior, with the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval: Repair façade damage and clean up and paint the rusted bars that serve as window guards.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment