Real estate brokers expect arena will up property values

The Brooklyn Paper
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As the controversy heats up over the construction of a Frank Gehry-designed village and professional basketball arena in Prospect Heights, there is one group that apparently stands to benefit — property owners.

“The long-term impact will be positive for market values,” said Christopher Thomas, president of William B. May Brooklyn, a large real estate firm with offices on Montague Street and Seventh Avenue.

Developer Bruce Ratner, who recently purchased the New Jersey Nets for $300 million, wants to build 17 residential and commercial buildings centered around a professional basketball arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues and extending into Prospect Heights.

While it is not a done deal — Ratner still needs a litany of approvals and faces a potential hurdle of lawsuits — property owners are busy speculating on how the 22-acre project with office towers reaching almost 60 stories tall might affect the selling prices of their homes.

Real estate agents say that at least in this respect, the forecast is bright.

In the already booming surrounding brownstone neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, where three-story houses already sell for upwards of $1.5 million, the new project could jack up prices even higher.

In Park Slope, the colossal project will likely drive prices up, said John Rutter, managing director for the Corcoran Group Park Slope — just as the development on, and up-zoning of, Fourth Avenue has driven up prices of apartments on the side streets between Fourth and Fifth avenues, where a two-bedroom luxury apartment on Sackett Street is now selling for $955,000.

“This will increase values in Park Slope,” said Rutter, “as long as the infrastructure improves in relation to what happens there.”

As part of the plan, Ratner intends to construct 4,500 units of housing, mostly near Vanderbilt Avenue. So far there has not been any talk about the addition of schools or traffic mitigation to handle the tens of thousands of new residents and commuters who would be brought to the area.

Eva Daniels has been selling real estate in Fort Greene for more than 20 years and says she doubts the project will have an adverse effect on property values, which started rising in the late 1990s when Manhattanites “discovered” the area.

Many residents are attracted to Fort Greene by its relatively quiet, tree-lined streets, diversity and sense of community, Daniels said, all things she would not change if the project goes ahead.

When Ratner constructed both the Atlantic Center mall and nearby Metrotech office campus in Downtown Brooklyn, agents predicted they would drive up property values.

But Daniels said they ultimately had almost no effect.

“It’s like crystal ball gazing,” said Nancy McKieren, who runs her own real estate office in Boerum Hill. “It all depends how the city plans it — if the traffic is worked out, the subway station planned out.”

While most agents agreed the project — especially with Gehry’s name attached to it — could only send prices up, they also worried about the increased traffic.

“Traffic is already horrendous,” said McKieren.

Asked if the project could adversely affect quality of life and thus drive prices down, Thomas pointed to the Manhattan neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Chelsea.

“Those are 19th-century period neighborhoods that coexist in the largest city in the country with high-rise, non-contextual developmen­ts,” said Thomas.

“Yet neighborhoods maintain a character and I think that will continue to be true with Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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