Downtown Brooklyn is, as we’ve reported many times before, in the midst of a building boom, with dozens of new developments adding myriad apartments to the neighborhood over the next few years. But many of those projects are massively scaled—TF Cornerstone’s 33 Bond Street, for example, has 714 apartments, while Steiner’s Hub (which is currently the borough’s tallest building) is home to 750 units.
Just a few blocks away from those two behemoths, however, a smaller-scale rental with a storied past is poised to hit the market. The Offerman Building, a 19th-century Romanesque Revival gem, has been transformed into a 121-unit rental building now called The Offerman House. Leasing recently launched on its long-awaited units, which have been in the works in some form or another for years.
The building itself was commissioned by sugar magnate Henry Offerman, who envisioned a department store for the space. He hired Danish architect Peter J. Lauritzen to design what would eventually rise on the oddly-shaped lot. In the years after it debuted in 1893, it was home to several retailers; the Landmarks Preservation Commission notes that the most famous one was Martin’s, which held the space for 55 years. By 2014, it had returns to its retail roots, with an Old Navy, TJ Maxx, and Nordstrom Rack all claiming space there.
The Offerman Building was named a New York City landmark in 2005, so many of its historic elements—brick arches, terra cotta ornamentation, and an incised sign on the Duffield Street side that spells out the word “OFFERMAN”—remain. (The AIA Guide to New York City, ever vicious, described the altered Fulton Street storefronts as “sleazy” and “grossly altered.”) Residents of the Offerman House’s apartments will enter through a new lobby on the Duffield Street side, away from the foot traffic of the Fulton Street mall.
Inside, however, the entire building has been transformed. In addition to the revamped lobby, residents will have access to the usual spate of amenities, including a fitness center, communal lounge, and a shared kitchen. There’s an expansive, landscaped roof deck that will have plenty of seating (for both parties and quiet lounging), along with views of the rising Downtown Brooklyn skyline. There’s also an elegant atrium, original to the building, that has been restored and will now serve as a focal point for residents.
The apartments themselves are a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedrooms, with prices starting at $2,872/month for the entry-level units, and close to $4,000/month for one-bedrooms. Despite the Romanesque Revival exterior, the units are minimalist in their design, with very little ornamentation beyond cast-iron columns and large windows that are original to the space.
The apartments are intended to have a loft-like feel, with high ceilings—in some cases, nearly 20 feet—and plenty of open space. One of the studios, for example, measures nearly 900 square feet, with an elevated area that functions as a bedroom. Apartments also come with custom kitchens with high-end appliances, a washer/dryer, tons of storage space, and central air and heating.
Still, even with those modern upgrades, the developers and marketing team think that the building’s past will be the real draw. When asked what differentiates Offerman from Downtown Brooklyn’s myriad other rentals, Renee Shacalo, a Citi Habitats agent who’s leading leasing efforts, says simply, “It’s the history.”