There are moments, usually ones having to do with wanting just one good bar or a second good restaurant (here’s the first) in my neighborhood, when I think back fondly on the time I spent living in Brooklyn. Yes, the place in which I lived came complete with THX-quality domestic disputes broadcast through the wall we shared with the next building; yes, there were critter issues; no, the bathroom was (somehow) not insulated. My nostalgia for it may have something to do with me being 23 when I lived there, but my eye still often wanders back to BK. So it was a pleasant surprise when I read, in a feature at The Real Deal, that Prospect Heights’ Sterling Green and Williamsburg’s Mason Fisk, two of the greener and more interesting-sounding Brooklyn developments of recent vintage — read: real estate crushes — have been beacons of success in a housing market that’s currently pretty flush with beacons of suck. See what I did there?
I know, it’s hilarious, but save your applause for the end of the post, please. While neither Aspen Equities’ Sterling Green nor the Meshberg Group’s Mason Fisk is pursuing third-party certification as a green building, both are excellent examples of how to develop green real estate in what could emerge as a very big market for green buildings. (I’m talking about Brooklyn, but the broader green real estate market will obviously expand, too) The author of the Real Deal piece above, Candace Taylor, focuses on how Sterling Green’s and Mason Fisk’s moderate sizes and reasonably priced units helped make them more appealing, with the reasonable size making it easier for developers to clear the financing benchmarks under tightened Fannie Mae condominium financing guidelines and the reasonable prices delivering some very obvious benefits to buyers, especially as the Federal Housing Authority prepares to raise its own standards. From a real estate perspective, then, that both buildings are small (Sterling Green is eight units, Mason Fisk is 26) and comparatively affordable even by the standards of their neighborhoods (condos for sale at Sterling Green average $501 per square foot; Mason Fisk’s wound up being $617, when the neighborhood standard was still north of $800) seems savvy. From a green-building perspective, though, both Sterling Green and Mason Fisk offer some interesting lessons.
Stephen covered Sterling Green — which is over 50 percent sold after nine weeks on the market — back in March of 2009, and the project was intriguing then for its panoply of green design elements. (Stephen’s laundry-list is on the other side of the link above, but suffice to say that it runs the gamut from low-VOC finishes to bamboo flooring to wind-powered common areas) From a design perspective, too, Sterling Green seems exemplary — its understated look blends in seamlessly with Prospect Heights’ townhouses and larger pre-war apartment buildings, making it a good architectural neighbor as well as a solid environmental citizen. Mason Fisk, for its part, stands out as an example of innovative and attractive adaptive reuse in a neighborhood whose other luxury condominium developments — and I say this with all due respect — are generally big glass turds with stupid names. Mason Fisk, beyond doing the usual energy-efficiency things (Energy Star appliances, etc.) stuck with the shell of the hundred-year-old building at 72 Berry Street and made a point of preserving as much of the original structure as possible, down to recycling original wood ceiling beams as furniture for the lobby. Whether either building would make the LEED grade we’ll never know, but considering how many macro-developments are currently floundering — and considering the less-than-green realities inherent in huge new developments in the first place — it’s hard not to applaud two greener-than-average, human-scale, intelligently priced Brooklyn buildings that are making it work in a market that still, by and large, isn’t working.