A brooklyn neighborhood that remained stubbornly and quietly residential for more than a century, Prospect Heights is being reinvented, most recently in the form of this green space-integrated 17-story residential development
by alice forstead
Even in this furiously evolving borough real estate market—within which, according to the site CityRealty, some 22,000 new-development apartments are expected by 2019—an area of decades long speculation frustration has been the neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and specifically its expanse north of today’s Barclays Center. The neighborhood—which experienced a first wave of resident diversity from the 1910s to the ’50s in its combination of Italian, Irish, Jewish, German, and Greek residents—has seen many an effort at rejuvenation over both the last century and this, most of which have all amounted to dross. In the mid-1950s, then Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley proposed a new stadium in the Heights to replace Ebbets Field, but the plan came to nothing. Baruch College considered moving its operations to the neighborhood, but was thwarted by the city’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s. A $250 million development plan entitled the “Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal” (valued at $1.6 billion in current dollars) was also proposed for the Heights in the late 1960s, which called for, according to the New York Times, “2,400 new low- and middle-income housing units to replace 800 dilapidated units, removal of the blighting Fort Greene Meat Market, a 14-acre site for the City University’s new Baruch College, two new parks, and community facilities such as day-care centers.” That vision, too, produced substantially less than hoped. And even with the gradual uptake of rents over the last 20 years, this enclave of just over 20,000 residents has remained stubbornly residential, lacking in gilt, and relatively quiet.
Pacific Park hopes to change that dynamic. As envisioned by developer Greenland Forest City Partners, the mixed-use neighborhood project adjacent to Downtown and Fort Greene and anchored by Barclays Center, will include 14 new residential buildings, 1.6 million square feet of commercial space, 250,000 square feet of new retail stores and restaurants, and eight landscaped acres of publicly accessible grounds, all within three miles of Lower Manhattan. Weaving throughout the Park are those acres of green, envisioned by landscape architect Thomas Balsley, who also designed Manhattan’s Riverside Park South, Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, and Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park in Queens. Formally entitled Atlantic Yards, the development was renamed Pacific Park in 2014 as part of a broader rebranding effort.
A 17-story residential building at the corner of Dean and Pacific streets, 550 Vanderbilt is a key component of the Park and scheduled to open later this year. COOKFOX Architects (part of the team behind the City Point mixed-use development in Downtown), which designed the multi-tiered structure, emphasizes its integration into the surrounding green spaces (see “Architects’ Notes” on next page), but there’s an additional integration at work in the form of significant MWBE (Minority and Women Owned Business/Enterprise) contractor inclusion for jobs like metal and drywall construction, as well as hiring from nearby Community Boards 2, 3, 6, and 8.
Sales began in September of last year— the rollout event highlighted by the unveiling of renderings for a 2,859-square-foot penthouse, featuring 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and a private 1,800-squarefoot terrace with views of Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, listed for $6,860,000.
The 277 other residences range from studios to three and four bedrooms, and all incorporate a palette of whites, grays (including the signature Carrara marble gray), and natural wood hues. Custom millwork, vanities, and sustainably sourced kitchen cabinetry add detail to each unit (continuing a similar vein of construction found in neighboring historic buildings). Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) finishes, high-efficiency energy recovery ventilators, and filtered fresh air in every apartment, along with storm/grey water retention, all contribute to a design that meets requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification.
Kitchens are fully integrated into the living spaces, a layout made possible by continuous wide-plank wood flooring. Polished chrome Grohe fixtures lend a cool edge to the subtle palette of Carrara marble countertops and backsplashes, while Miele cooktops, ovens, and refrigerators are integrated into custom gray lacquer cabinetry (with walnut accents). Master baths evoke spa-like serenity with their marble-topped vanities, walnut millwork, and crisp ceramic tiles that subtly catch the sun. Lighting from polished Grohe fixtures and Carrara marble flooring finish the bath spaces. Secondary baths carry over the same ambience in a casual tone, in part through large-format porcelain flooring. Powder rooms are built around a marble accent wall, and likewise include Grohe fixtures.
Common amenities include a fitness center with private studios as well as a children’s playroom. Floating above the treetops, a landscaped roof deck features a dining alcove, an outdoor kitchen, and a communal garden with gas grill. Private storage, pet grooming, and access to bicycle storage are also available. Residents have exclusive access to a library overlooking Pacific Park, a lounge with a fireplace, and a dining room with catering kitchen for private gatherings. A 24-hour attended lobby and live-in resident manager add to the safety considerations and conveniences.
“550 Vanderbilt is redefining what the modern luxury lifestyle can be in Prospect Heights, offering park-front living with amenities, services, and design on par with the finest residences in all New York City, not just Brooklyn,” explained MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. “And perhaps what’s most exciting is how Pacific Park is taking shape all around 550 Vanderbilt; its residents will be joining a vibrant new community, home to dining, retail, a new school, and the borough’s largest transportation hub.”