Fort Greene: Brooklyn's Next Hot Spot? (Part 2)
Fort Greene has been settled since the 1600s, and its residential streets aren't likely to change drastically any time soon. But the creative investor can unearth opportunities. For Part 1 of our then-and-now tour of the community, click here.
We walked the neighborhood with New York Historical Tours' Kevin Draper and Eastern Consolidated’s Adelaide Polsinelli and Ben Tapper. This block of Fulton between Fort Greene Place and South Elliott Place shows the wide sidewalks that make the neighborhood so appealing to Adelaide, as well as the retail and resi vibe that reminds her of Greenwich Village when it was on the rise in the ’80s and ’90s (not to mention the Vanagon parked at the far corner if you squint). No doubt this area is on the rise, as we counted four residential brokerage offices within two blocks.
Nothing says Lower East Side like split-level retail. The difference between that bohemian neighborhood and this one is that Fort Greene is largely African-American. The City’s acceptance of the local arts culture smooths over community relations, easing the way for development, our guides tell us. It also helps that the F train running under Fulton prevents large-scale development above it; this is how this block will always look, Ben says. All the better to picture the celebrities who come from Fort Greene. Spike Lee’s production company is three blocks away; Michael Jordan, Branford Marsalis, and Chris Rock were raised nearby; Walt Whitman edited the Brooklyn Eagle near here; and Al Capone was born and formed his first gang on Fort Greene Place.
This building is just so Brooklyn. Note the Not Ray’s Pizza and Biggie Smalls’ “Spread love” lyric. Around the corner, a two-story mural of Notorious B.I.G. that’s reminiscent of Che Guevara (done for Habana Outpost) was finished in 2011.
Along the residential streets, 308 and 306 Clermont tell a story of rising real estate values. Each sold for $1.7M, but 308 (on the left, meticulously renovated in ’07) sold a year ago and 306 (on the right, in much worse shape) sold last month at auction for the same amount.
And though much of Fort Greene is impervious to new development, investors can get creative, Ben says. At 237 Cumberland, a December 2012 buyer figured out how to get spacious horizontal units out of narrow plots. He bought a pair of neighboring townhouses and merged them, turning the combined properties into four 46-foot-wide units. Ben tells us one sold recently for $1.6M, or $985/SF, more than twice what the Clermont properties sold for.
Prospect Park is commonly considered Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s follow-up to Central Park, but, Kevin says, the pair designed Forte Geene Park (above) in between. The 30-acre park's hilly topography, though, is more similar to northern Central Park and Fort Tryon Park. As for that massive Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, designed by McKim Mead & White’s Stanford White, here's how it came to be: The British held Revolutionary War prisoners on ships at Wallabout Basin and buried the dead in mass graves on site. During construction 100 years later on what was then the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Kevin says, the bones of 11,000 soldiers were moved and now reside under this monument. (But let’s wait until the kids are older to tell them.)