With its changing demographics and continued evolution into a more “Manhattanized” version of itself, Brooklyn continues to attract developers. Much of their construction features glamorous, glass high-rises for young professionals seeking proximity to New York City and the borough’s own cultural riches and perceived hipness. Some developers, however, veer from this formula to maintain more of the original architectural character and neighborhood feel. Case in point: New York City developer Sam Boymelgreen, whose move with his family from Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights to Clinton Hill proved the catalyst for his 10-unit Aperture 538 building on vacant land at 538 Washington Ave.
Boymelgreen wanted to retain the neighborhood's sense of authenticity, from the brownstones’ smaller scale to their deep-colored façades. To do so, he hired New York architect Luca Andrisani to design a five-story condominium building. The two men didn’t want to completely duplicate the old architecture, so to show some contemporary swagger, Andrisani designed a façade with a perforated copper screen, inspired by both the Brooklyn Bridge and the color of the weathering steel on the exterior of the nearby Barclays Center sports arena. Because the latter material proved too costly, Andrisani switched to copper, which has weathered since construction began in 2013 to a color similar to that of the area’s brownstones.
Though the lot was small and flanked on one side by townhouses and the other by commercial quarters, one advantage of the limited size of the new construction was that the architect and developer could include outdoor living space for each unit, either on the roof, balcony, or terrace. The team knew such space would be an important amenity for urban dwellers, some of whom find this neighborhood appealing because of its leafy canopies. Boymelgreen envisioned that the project would appeal primarily to first-time buyers; “creative” professionals working from home several days a week; and young families planning to stay in the city rather than relocate to the suburbs.
In addition to the mod copper screening, Andrisani chose other contemporary finishes, as well, including a polished-concrete lobby floor that he warmed with walnut wall panels, to add a handcrafted look. The same thinking led to different layouts, which made it impossible to align mechanical and plumbing systems. Planning, therefore, required extra effort, but Boymelgreen considers variety essential. All 10 units, however, do share the popular open-plan layout for their public areas. The smallest, measuring 533 square feet, sold for $499,000. Completion continues, with three units currently on the market, including a 1,490-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom priced at $1.74 million, and a 1,263-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bathroom for $1.675 million. Full completion is expected by winter 2016.
Light and View
The Aperture’s interior choices were made to yield light-filled units. “We studied how much sunlight the area receives at different times of the day,” Boymelgreen says. “How a building functions is as important as its design.” Ceilings stand 9 feet high, floors are white oak, and windows are placed to optimize light and views. Movable shutters offer privacy and a classic element.
Writer Nathaniel Frank, who relocated to the neighborhood to gain outdoor space and bang for his buck, loves the area’s diversity of people, architecture, and culture, in addition to its leafiness. “The developer proved you can bring density, which was needed, and still respect the brownstone scale,” Frank says.
In the end, Boymelgreen achieved his goal. Says he: “This building is my ode to Brooklyn.”