The real estate market is famously not for the weak of heart. But the light of heart are welcome: developer Mayer Schwartz, chatty, ebullient, sporting a permanent smile, met me on Sunday to talk about his huge new development at 114 Troutman. Originally slated to be the Troutman Gardens condominiums, plans changed once the market began to soften and they will now be 146 rentals.
Decades back, the huge site was home to the Castle Braid Company, which made clothing trims. Upon reading this bit of trivia in these pages, Mayer recognized the name: several main characters in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn worked there. As a nod to the history and culture of the borough, Mayer decided to name the building for the factory that once stood there.
The Castle Braid will be packed with amenities like a doorman, library/lounge area, recreation and meeting rooms, huge laundry center, and free wifi throughout. In the double-height lobby, plans call for a huge chalkboard wall that artists will be invited to change every so often, and even an indoor brick wall for street art.
The tentative plans for the courtyard are so over-the-top magnificent I can hardly describe it - lawns, trees, gardens, benches, water feature, dramatic glassed-in area with a fireplace, and more, all with a striking modern layout. The roof will likely have an area for sunbathing and a side yard may be reserved for residents' dogs.
Inside, the units are well laid-out and spacious with wood floors, Italian kitchens, high end ceramic tile in the baths, and huge windows in every room. Each unit has a sliding door for a sort of "lean out" balcony. There are even laundry hookups for the more rooted renter.
Where will the several hundred residents of the Castle Braid (not to mention the hundreds of other units coming on line within one block very soon) go for coffee and food? Trudge all the way to Wyckoff or Morgantown until some entrepreneur gets the clue? Mayer's got that covered, too - the space just to the right of Willy's Market will be a cafe with a rear yard.
He's also trying to get Zipcar to base some cars behind the building, where our illiberal and antiquated zoning rules forced him to provide over 70 parking spaces for tenants unlikely to have cars. Right now the closest base is by Woodhull Hospital - quite a schlep.
There are a few apartments with large roof terraces, but one of them may already be taken. "When she saw how cool we were making this building, my wife said she wanted us to live here!" laughed Mayer.
Mayer says he wants helpful criticism and not praise, but so far I can't think of anything to pick on. There is nothing as well-designed and attractive (looking at you, 358 Grove) in Bushwick, and though the prices seem steep, the product is up to par and anyone looking for something similar in Williamsburg will be paying $1000 more a month for far less amenities and access to transportation.