By Stephen Witt
Plans are underway to develop a large residential/retail strip stretching along Myrtle Avenue from the Flatbush Avenue Extension to Ashland Place. The plans involve a joint venture between Supermarket entrepreneur John Catsimatidis and BFC Construction Corp. Catsimatidis is chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group in Manhattan, which also owns Gristedes supermarkets. “We hope this will be a win-win for everybody,” said Catsimatidis, who bought about 80 percent of the properties 20 years ago. Preliminary plans call for a 400-foot high-rise building on Myrtle Avenue off the Flatbush Avenue Extension with up to 500 condos and luxury rentals. Additionally, the plan calls for several 160-foot buildings which will be for mixed-income affordable housing and retail. The neighborhood is surrounded by several large residential complexes including the Ingersoll Houses, the Walt Whitman Houses, the Armory Towers and University Towers. One of the blocks currently has a Duane Reade on it and Catsimatidis said he would like to see the pharmacy stay, joined by a Gristedes Supermarket. “We think we run great stores and a Gristedes would be a plus for the neighborhood,” Catsimatidis said. “We’re happy to be working with anybody who wants to do things that are better.” The entire footprint of the development was “up-zoned” in June 2004 as part of the Downtown Brooklyn plan. City Councilmember Letitia James, in whose district the proposed development lies, said she voted for the plan on the condition that affordable housing be included. As such, James played point person between the Pratt Area Community Council [PACC] and the other joint partners to include the affordable housing component. PACC is a local community-based organization whose main service area includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The group currently manages or owns 57 buildings. “Not everything is firmed up yet,” said PACC executive Director Deb Howard. “We have the tax credits and we’ll be marketing the affordable units and we will be managing at least one of the buildings.” Howard said one of the buildings is a low-income inclusionary zoning unit for families below the area medium income (AMI) guidelines. There are three sections to the project, said Howard, with the inclusionary zoning low-income part being under PACC jurisdiction. The next section consists of several buildings that will utilize a model where 50 percent of the housing units will be for market-rate housing, 30 percent for middle-income housing and 20 percent for low-income housing, she said. Howard said the last section will be the condos and luxury units in the tower at Flatbush Avenue. PACC has already been granted low-income housing tax credits for the project, and the organization will begin marketing the properties as the project materializes, said Howard. As for the retail stores on the ground floors of the new buildings, Howard said PACC is doing outreach to gauge and then voice the community’s preferences for utilization of this space. “We’re excited about having this opportunity to offer apartments to very low-income families in the Fort Greene area,” said Howard.