Bidding wars for condos at DUMBO’s 51 Jay St.

Eye On Real Estate

March 30, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to 51 Jay St., which is undergoing a condo conversion. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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As a frequent photographer in DUMBO, we’re obsessed with 51 Jay St.

For the past couple years, we’ve been keeping our Eye on the industrial building formerly owned by the Forman family as it undergoes a condo conversion.

It turns out that we’re not alone.

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

“A lot of condo buyers — we call them the ‘DUMBO enthusiasts’ — live right in the neighborhood,” Halstead Property Development Marketing agent Debbie Zolan told Eye on Real Estate recently.

“They bring their sisters, mothers and cousins to visit our sales office. They will text me on weekends about things they see at 51 Jay St.

“They stalk the building.”

The “DUMBO enthusiasts” beg for hard-hat tours, she said. But the only people who are allowed to make such visits are investors in the development and reporters.


Eight price amendments

We recently got to go on a tour with Zolan, who’s the sales manager for 51 Jay St., and Golan Hod of Adam America Real Estate, the owners’ rep for 51 Jay.

The three-story factory, which is located in the DUMBO Historic District, is being enlarged into a seven-story, 74-unit condo building.

Development work is expected to be completed in Fall 2016, and condo owners will start moving into the building then.

Adam America and co-developer Slate Property Group purchased 51 Jay for $45.5 million in 2013, city Finance Department records indicate.

Condo sales at 51 Jay launched in January 2015. In less than five months, contracts were signed for more than 50 percent of the units.

Now more than 70 percent of the condos are in contract, Zolan said.

“We have submitted eight price amendments to the Attorney General,” all of them price increases, she said.

“We’ve had bidding wars. We’ve had multiple offers on units.”

According to StreetEasy.com, asking prices for the condos in contract range from $5.775 million for a four-bedroom penthouse to $875,000 for a studio.  

Currently, there are 10 condos being offered by Halstead Property Development Marketing at 51 Jay.

The two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments are listed for asking prices ranging from $5.15 million for a four-bedroom penthouse to $2 million for a two-bedroom unit on the fifth floor.

A small handful of condos hasn’t yet been released to the market, Zolan said.

Parking spaces for 51 Jay are located in the building next door, 205 Water St. The asking price is $125,000 per space — and they’re selling fast, Zolan said.

In 2013, 51 Jay’s developers purchased 28 parking spaces in that neighboring building for a combined $1,339,325, Finance Department records indicate.


Buyers from Tribeca and Hong Kong

In addition to the “DUMBO enthusiasts,” other people who’ve signed contracts for condos at 51 Jay are from Manhattan and places farther afield like Boston, Los Angeles, Mexico and Hong Kong.

The Manhattan residents are from the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and especially Tribeca.

Apartment owners in Tribeca feel they’re getting a good deal when they move to DUMBO, Zolan said. In the waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood, they can buy condos in converted historic warehouses — the same type of building they’re accustomed to living in.

They can sell their Tribeca apartments for $2,200 per square foot, while the Jay Street condo conversion is priced around $1,600 to $1,700 per square foot, she said.

Also, some Tribeca residents send their kids to Brooklyn Heights’ St. Ann’s School or Packer Collegiate Institute, then wind up moving to DUMBO to live closer to the schools.  

According to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s DUMBO Historic District designation report, 51 Jay was a factory built in 1913 that was originally an E.W. Bliss Co. machine shop.

In his factories in the neighborhood — 51 Jay wasn’t the only one — Eliphalet W. Bliss made presses, dies and machinery for manufacturers of a dizzying array of tin and sheet-iron ware from bird cages to typewriters.   

In more recent years, the building belonged to Ben Forman & Sons, a metal-stamping firm whose name is on the building’s exterior.

Workers wearing drywall stilts

So. About our hard-hat tour.

It was fun to step inside 51 Jay’s construction fence for the first time.  

We asked to start our visit at the top of the building, on the seventh floor, where portions of penthouses and adjoining terraces are being constructed.

We wanted to see the rooftop views. They were intriguing.

In one direction, the pale gleam of 20 Jay St.’s façade and the tops of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building peeking above brick apartment houses caught our Eye. In the opposite direction, neighboring Water Street buildings stood before a backdrop of Downtown Brooklyn towers.  

On the sixth floor, gleaming metal studs framed a hallway that seemed to stretch into infinity.

Then we walked through a space that will be Penthouse G, an apartment all on a single floor. The asking price is $3.595 million. Other penthouses in the building are duplexes.

Everywhere, construction crews toiled. Some workers wore drywall stilts, which are special braces they strap to their legs to make themselves taller.

Down on the fifth floor, we stepped into a space where the sheetrock’s going up, which is going to be Unit 5G.

It’s in the southwest corner of the building, so it was flooded with sunlight.

The construction netting that shrouds the building hung over the apartment’s glassless window frames. Still, there was a great view of the Manhattan Bridge, its stone archway and DUMBO’s Clock Tower.

This condo, with a $3.279 million price tag, hasn’t yet been released to the market.


A courtyard with birch trees

To bring light and air into the center of the building — which runs the length of the block between Water and Plymouth streets — project designer ODA Architecture has devised a roofless courtyard in the center of the building. The courtyard, which is 40 feet by 60 feet in size, is like a hole in a gigantic donut.

In the center of the courtyard, there will be a grove of birch trees on elevated terrain so the occupants of the apartments won’t see into each other’s windows.

Portions of the courtyard that will be divided up as private patios for first-floor condos will have six-foot fences to afford privacy.

On the fourth floor of 51 Jay, we saw huge windows that are being installed in courtyard-facing condos. They extend nearly from floor to ceiling, with multi-pane window frames that look like they belong in an old-fashioned industrial building.

Down on the first floor, the courtyard was a bright ring of light in the building’s center. Construction netting covered the encircling walls.

The first-floor apartments facing the courtyard were filled with mazes of metal studs. A half-year from now, they will be finished-out living spaces.

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