Friday, January 21, 2011

Classon Rising: Four Corners, New Housing

A few weeks back, I reported on a pair of new businesses opening on Classon, Thirst Bar and Pasha Pita Pizza Grill. The folks at Nostrand Park swung by Thirst Bar a few days later to try the food. In their post, they noted, as I did, that the location is somewhat unexpected (next to an auto body shop, across from a junkyard, and down the street from a live poultry place). Despite the unique site, Nostrand Park offered a theory for success, namely, that the bar (and Pasha) are located at the "Four Corners," the intersection of Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights. These four neighborhoods have seen an influx of new residents and businesses over the last decade that has accelerated in the last few years, which amounts to a lot of potential customers living and shopping close by. Along with the nearby C train stops, NP suggests that Thirst Bar could become the anchor for a new "restaurant row" in the area, reporting that an Italian restaurant from an experienced Manhattan restaurateur is slated to open next door soon. The idea has generated some conversation on Brooklynian, with some commentors noting that Outpost, on Fulton, has had a lot of success in a similarly out-of-the-way location (though Fulton does get considerably more foot traffic).

I'd suggest a complimentary theory. The "Four Corners" area between Washington and Franklin north of Prospect Place and south of Atlantic Avenue was historically a non-residential zone, home to the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn and industrial sites including the Knox Hat Factory, Nassau Brewery, the Pirika Chocolate Company, and a Studebaker Service Station. In the past several years, however, this area has slowly become increasingly residential, with the Hospital, Knox and Nassau (in part) sites converted to rental units and new residential buildings erected, including the Ishi Condos, Hello Living. As I type this, the hospital is completing a huge new wing of rental units and the city is putting the finishing touches on its St. Marks Gardens affordable development, and in some ways, I think these latest developments have been the tipping point. With so many people living nearby, it's no wonder that business owners are starting to take a second look at Classon. In addition to Thirst Bar, Pasha, and the new Italian place, a huge Compare Foods (pictured above) is getting ready to open - note the White Rose truck at the loading dock - and renovation has begun of the one-story hospital building on the corner of St. Marks and Classon (home to the short-lived Tiny Urban Park), which is slated to become a coffee shop. There's also a storefront under renovation down the street on Classon between Dean and Bergen, though I couldn't ascertain what it's going to be (anyone know?).

In short, it seems the Four Corners, where residents from the four neighborhoods once congregated to work, has become a residential area where people live, and where they'll soon be able to shop, eat, and drink as well. As these residences and businesses open, they'll begin to generate the type of foot traffic that attracts further development, though one wonders what will happen to the light-industrial businesses that remain, including a number of garages/auto-body places and several warehouses and workshops. At the moment, most of the development has happened in vacant spaces, but if the trend continues, these types of business, which provide local jobs, may be forced out. I can't predict what Classon Avenue will look like in five or ten years, but I'm starting to believe that a lot of these new businesses will still be thriving.


  1. Great post Nick! I really like the Classon Ave. - the scarier uglier cousin of Franklin Ave. - seems to be transforming into something more distinct than what Franklin Ave. is in the middle of transforming into.

    I like the "boutique like" feel of the shops opening on Classon Ave. I do think in 10 yrs. Classon may have a more visually "dramatic" transformation than Franklin Ave.

    Only time and further development will tell.

  2. I think your comparison to the meatpacking district was dead-on . . . it does seem to be acquiring a more boutique feel. I do wonder what will happen to some of those junkyards and auto-body places - they seem to do a bustling business, but will they hang around?

  3. Fantastic post Nick! I love the swift architectural development that is consistently happening outside my window :) I can't wait to see what the next 5 years holds.

  4. I think the junk yards are toast. Whenever their lease comes up, I suspect they will not be renewed.

    Ditto, I predict that the coach bus company (Monsey?) will move its maintenance/parking facility to far cheaper land if were someone were to make them an offer on their current site.

  5. Thanks Nick! The transformation of the GRITTY meat packing district as I knew it in the early 90's WITH IT'S:

    - bloody meat packing warehouses, gritty alternative clubs (Clit Club, Jackie 60 etc), Transvestite Hookers broadly strolling in the middle of the St soliciting trade, Vault S&M Club, not to mention the gritty Pier & numerous hetro -by-the hr-"hotels" -

    into this sleek, new upscale boutique row, opened my eyes to how change like that happens.

    Classon Ave.'s days of industrial, gritty feel, with its junk yards, auto body shops and live poultry outlets are surely numbered.

    It's just a matter of time.

  6. "There's also a storefront under renovation down the street on Classon between Dean and Bergen, though I couldn't ascertain what it's going to be (anyone know?)."
    They said it was going to be a Real estate".. Work stopped 6 months ago.

    Classon is the Ave.

  7. And with this change, comes huge price increases for rentals and forces the old timers who live here now to move again plus the......Hipster Nomads!

    The problem with the Meat Packing District is this: Only rich jerks live there, it looks like Disney land. I hate it, I hate the snobby feeling I get when I walk around there and I hate knowing that hard working families will be displaced if Classon turns into that. Crown Heights needs to think smarter about diversifying it's real estate or it's going to end up the chintzy, historically empty vapid worm hole that is the Meat Packing District, SoHo, etc. And in this economy, the risk to converting an entire area for only a 'certain' type of individual is irresponsible.

  8. Speaking in terms of something that will serve the whole area and all of its residents, the lady and I went by the Compare Foods tonight and glanced through the cracks in the construction fence. It looks very impressive . . . a shiny new fully-loaded supermarket with what looks to be an enormous produce section, big butcher and seafood sections, and many, many aisles. Some of the shelves are stocked . . . anyone know when it opens?

  9. There's nothing on its website about an opening date, but I agree, it looks like it will be open very soon.

    "Compare Foods works hard to better the communities which it serves. It sponsors and supports local groups such as churches, youth services and non-profit organizations. It constantly looks to make the neighborhood and its surrounding areas a better place to live. "

    ...sounds good to me.

  10. I hope Compare Supermarket forces the other supermarkets in the area, Keyfood on Nostrand especially, to step up their selection, display and freshness game!

  11. To your point Nick, I can't remember my source, so don't quote me on this, but I recently was told that there is some activity going on at 945 Bergen (at Franklin). As I understand it will be converted to residential building.

    I looked at the city records, but didn't see much new activity - the place was purchased by "Crow Hill Development" in early 2008. They applied for the permit to construct a fence in 2009. Nothing much since so who knows...

    There is also Big Sue's green building on Dean Street and the relatively new and beautifully renovated Kai Studio so there is definitely activity in that section of town. I think it just goes under the radar.

    There is also the new really expensive condo development on Classon near St. Johns, "The Prospect" with $1 million+ apartments.

  12. Great post! I've been living on Classon near Bergen for almost two years and have witnessed all this development first hand. Didn't see this mentioned - there's also a huge condo building on Bergen between Classon & Washington that had ceased construction for over a year, but has started construction again recently. It's been slow going, but it looks like they are getting closet to being done. Unfortunately I think it's really hideous and looks very cheap. There's also an older brick rowhouse near that corner that was for sale since I've been living in the neighborhood, but was finally purchased and is currently being gutted. It's an interesting time to be living around here. I'm especially looking forward to Compare Foods. Can't wait!!

  13. I am a 60 year old woman who often visited my son who lived for a while on Lefferts Place betewwen Classon and Franklin. I loved this neighborhood 3 years ago and there were hardly any of these restaurants around. It felt stable (in spite of some awful crime) and seemed like an area ready to pop.
    I don't mean gentrify but just not to seem so isolated from change. Glad to see it happening. He only moved a few blocks away, to the olther side of Atlantic but we have new streets to explore when we visit

  14. Hello Nick/ All

    I'm very interested in renting an apartment in the old hospital on prospect pl. By any chance does anyone have info on the price? As well as well as the official name of the property? Thanksva million

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