DUMBO’s quiet village, Vinegar Hill, sits east of the main activity along the waterfront and runs east of Bridge Street up to the Navy Yard walls. It is a unique neighborhood of old school businesses that sit alongside building shells that are being transformed into shiny new apartments and workspaces. The buildings that dominate the area include active wood shops, antique restorers, furniture makers and a huge back-up Con Ed facility.
Among the first upgrades to the area came in 2012 with loft and condo renovations by the HK Organization to 99 Gold Street and 79 Bridge Street. These were soon followed by a “manor style” condo at the Hudson Avenue condominium at the foot of Front Street, and the arrival of 109 York Street, developed by the Constellation Group.
Another new renovation vibe can be seen in GDC Properties’ historically-faithful rehabilitation of 220 Water Street, the lovingly restored, elegant rental with one of the most impressive lobbies around. Between this and other neighborhood properties, nearly 500 units have been developed in Vinegar Hill since 2000, providing new options for waterfront living in Brooklyn.
Much-needed commercial office space is almost as scarce in Vinegar Hill as it is in nearby DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn. Only 231 Front Street was added to the market in 2012 and is now all but leased up. There are other commercial conversion possibilities, but they may go residential, as 60 John Street and 194 Plymouth Street have done. This is because although the area is zoned for both uses, residential has a higher value.
There are a few potential retail spaces coming on the market on Bridge Street, where available spaces are large and low foot traffic keeps retail values at around $30 a foot. However, the high square-footage can also be a turn-off. Restaurant space, which in great demand, is virtually non-existent. However, Vinegar Hill House and sister café Hillside, both on Hudson Avenue in the midst of historic landmarked blocks, show what can be done with a DIY approach to fine food and drink.
As for the numerous development sites that remain, major change awaits their re-use. The Watchtower is now selling their 180,000 square-foot site at 173 Front Street, but their 750,000 square-foot site – bounded by Bridge, York, Jay and Front Streets – is also on the horizon. The latter will bring hundreds of apartments and much retail space, needed to attract visitors and serve locals.
Once those are complete and tenants begin moving in, the quiet village will change. However, its location bordered by Farragut Houses, the Navy Yard and the Con Ed facility should keep it feeling local for some time to come.
A licensed broker and Director of Commercial Property with APTSANDLOFTS.com, responsible for developing the company’s retail presence and entry into the Brooklyn office space market. Chriswhavens@gmail.com