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Windsor Terrace on Edge

01/08/2008, By Tracy McNamara and James Kelly

Like other outer-borough neighborhoods on the cusp of becoming hot spots, brokers are concerned the real estate slowdown is causing Windsor Terrace to wobble. But unlike some other up-and-coming neighborhoods, Windsor Terrace has the distinction of being on the border of upscale Park Slope, and the proximity that helped in the past may hurt now.

Nestled between Prospect Park and the Greenwood Cemetery, Windsor Terrace is still “a little undiscovered,” and has only recently attracted a more diverse population, said Zev Keisch, a broker at Bond New York. With housing prices about 20 to 25 percent lower than hyper-popular Park Slope, Windsor Terrace is an attractive alternative.

Brokers concede that it still lacks the good restaurants and bars found in the nearby Slope; however, some new establishments are opening, giving Windsor Terrace a more upscale feel. The latest is DUB Pies, which offers Australian-style meat and vegetarian pies. It opened its second New York City location at 16th Street and Prospect Park West, across the street from Farrell’s Bar & Grill, a local institution.

But if prices come down in Park Slope, market watchers believe that Windsor Terrace will lose its advantage.

“My feeling about Windsor Terrace is that as Park Slope goes, the Terrace goes,” said Keisch. “If Park Slope shows a slowdown, then people who were compromising by going to Windsor Terrace to be in that area don’t necessarily have to – and can look at their first choice, Park Slope, with a greater chance of a successful buy.”

And while prices are dipping in Windsor Terrace, buyers don’t appear to be pouncing.

“Things are definitely slowing down in [Windsor Terrace],” said Brian Meier, a vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, who recently sold three townhouses in Windsor Terrace to people who already lived in the neighborhood. “Prices are down around 7.5 percent, but even more than that, there is a slowness to sell. One-bedrooms have really slowed down, since it’s not really a singles neighborhood.”

Despite the stagnation, a couple of developers are extremely bullish in the neighborhood and forging ahead with a handful of new projects. Family-owned Basile Builders Group is building four new projects in Windsor Terrace, and Rybak Developments is building one new project in the area.

Those projects would add a total of 95 new units – not enough for some brokers.

For Henry Valdes, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, the lack of new developments creates a challenge.

“The problem for me is not having enough inventory,” said Valdes. “I feel it is the first stop people look for after Park Slope, and before looking into Kensington or Ditmas Park.”

Brokers describe Windsor Terrace as a traditionally working-class, Irish- and Italian-American neighborhood where families have handed down small frame houses and limestone townhouses from generation to generation.

In fact, some newcomers who have renovated their homes have reported some tension with some locals who feel threatened by gentrification and major architectural statements.

On Seeley Street, where some front yards are decorated with pinwheels, garden ornaments and American flags, a block meeting was held last year by neighbors who opposed the major renovations a new family was doing on their home, according to one former resident.

Other seemingly DIY renovations and some new construction, like enclosed porches or near-windowless facades, give some streets a desolate feel. Last year, that prompted an owner of Lonelyville Coffee, a local coffeeshop, to describe the architecture in a New York Times article as “Windsor Terrorized” and “stripped of all [its] charm.”

And while the area is finding favor with young families who are buying homes and slowly renovating them, the value of those homes is dipping.

While prices for condos and co-ops in Brooklyn’s most coveted areas – Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope – increased 11 percent to $679,000 in the third quarter of 2007 from the third quarter of 2006, according to the Corcoran Report, neighborhoods on the fringe of gentrification are now struggling.

Residential data coming out this month are expected to show a noticeable falloff in prices in fringe areas, a delayed result of the credit crunch that began in the summer.

“Prices had risen steadily over the last few years, but like pretty much every neighborhood, prices in Windsor Terrace have been affected [by the real estate slowdown],” said Jeff Grandis at the Brooklyn-based Accord Real Estate Group. He said he’s seen a fall in resale prices by 5 to 10 percent.

Falling prices notwithstanding, Basile Builders likes what it sees in this area and is seeking additional properties in the neighborhood.

Parc Maison, at 1671 11th Avenue, is Basile Builders’ newest addition to Windsor Terrace. The development consists of five townhouses, each with three condominiums ranging from 1,050 square feet to over 1,600 square feet. Apartments at the project, which went on sale in November, range from $600,000 to $700,000 in price. All of the units are two-bedrooms.

“We sold over 50 percent in the first week,” said Andrew Booth, a vice president at Corcoran who is selling the building, which is located two blocks from Prospect Park. “I think because there just are not a lot of developments in the neighborhood.”

Last spring, Basile Builders Group developed the Simone, a 35-unit glass and steel luxury condo at 35 McDonald Avenue in Windsor Terrace, whose bricolage design won it a Queens & Bronx Builders Association award. Next door, the developers erected 11 Terrace Place, a three-story sister building comprised of 18 one- and two-bedroom units. Several blocks down at 1101 Prospect Avenue, construction has already begun on an 18-unit luxury complex, Prospect Row Condominiums, also located two blocks from Prospect Park.

At the Simone, prices on the largest units were reduced 5 to 7 percent since sales began in August 2006, said Booth, who is the exclusive sales agent. Condos sold for between $300,000 and $1.18 million, and all but one penthouse unit had been sold as of press time.

In contrast to the bricolage-designed glass and steel construction of the Simone, another developer in the neighborhood, Rybak Development, built a four-story brick building at 3001 Fort Hamilton Parkway called the Residences. Principal Sergey Rybak claimed that by mimicking the building material and height of Windsor Terrace’s largely prewar housing stock, the Residences complements the architecture of the neighborhood. At the same time, the development introduces modern elements like 7.5-foot windows.

Since going on the market in November, only one unit has sold at the nine-unit building, said Maxine Resnick of Corcoran, who is marketing the project. Resnick and Rybak both seemed optimistic about the development, which Rybak purchased the site for in May of 2006 and expects to complete building by February 2008.

The project’s one- and two-bedroom homes are priced from $390,000 to $560,000. Rybak pointed out that at $575 per square foot, his units are on average $75 cheaper per square foot than at the Simone.

At 11 Terrace Place, 14 of 18 units sold for around $550 a square foot since going on the market in June 2007. Prices were cut 5 percent on three units, Booth said.

While the brokers at each of these developments said their largest demographic of buyers is young couples who work in Manhattan, the area is more than 90 percent residential and doesn’t offer much in the way of nightlife and restaurant options, particularly when compared to nearby Park Slope, where Seventh and Fifth avenues are lined with bars, restaurants, clubs and coffeehouses.

But new businesses are opening in Windsor Terrace that cater to a more moneyed crowd with broader tastes.

The newer establishments contrast with 75-year-old Farrell’s, which is favored by a police and firefighter clientele and primarily serves Budweiser on tap. Newcomers would be wise not to order Chardonnay here on a date.

Yasmin Gur, manager of Crossroads Café, which opened in 2005 on Prospect Avenue, said that when she moved to Windsor Terrace six years ago, when the area’s wave of gentrification began, one had to take a subway to Seventh Avenue in Park Slope to find a coffee shop.

“But the neighborhood has changed in the last few years,” Gur said. “There are a lot of artists and writers here,” she added. “The area is changing every day.”

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