Renovations Follow Families to Victorian Flatbush

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A seven-block stretch of Cortelyou Road in the Victorian Flatbush area, where families looking for four-plus bedrooms and suburban-style backyards are increasingly scooping up homes, will soon be adorned with Belgian block-edged sidewalks, park benches, dozens of new linden trees, and a freestanding cast-iron clock.

While a children’s boutique and a couple of cozy cafes have put down roots on Cortelyou Road in recent years, the so-called streetscape renovations are expected to attract a bevy of new, higher-end businesses, and create a shopper-friendly atmosphere.

The $1.2 million city-funded project also comprises the teardrop-style streetlights installed last summer, according to the Flatbush Development Corporation. The FDC is coordinating the project, which has been two years in the works and is slated for a summer 2007 completion.

A decade ago, sprawling homes in the neighborhood, alternately known as Ditmas Park, sold for $300,000 to $400,000; today their price tags can exceed $1 million, a senior vice president with the Corcoran Group, Jerry Minsky, said. Even though housing prices have increased by “leaps and bounds,” he said services remain scarce in the business district, which is capped by East 17th Street and Coney Island Avenue.

“Now, it’s gearing itself up to bring in more attractive stores,” Mr. Minsky, a Brooklyn-based broker, said. “Regretfully, what will happen is the cost of operating a business is going to go up as well.” He compared the Cortelyou Road project to the upgrades that have transformed Boerum Hill and Fort Greene within the past decade.

“It’s like when they renovated Smith Street all those years ago,” a resident of Victorian Flatbush, Gerry Campbell, said, referring to the Boerum Hill thoroughfare. “Soon after that, all these new businesses, better businesses began coming in. There was more variety — fewer 99-cent stores and $10 barbershops.” Mr. Campbell owns the 2-year-old Cornerstone bar on Cortelyou Road. He said he plans to turn the bar into a restaurant with a wide beer and whiskey selection later this year.

In addition to Cornerstone, recent years have seen the opening of homegrown businesses such as Vox Pop coffee shop and bookstore, a continental restaurant called Picket Fence, and Belle & Maxie’s children’s store.

“As it is now, the street looks a little barren, a little beaten, a little warn — and I welcome any positive change, in that sense,” the owner of Belle & Maxie’s, Gilbert Torres, 44, said. “There are a lot of people living here, a lot of people moving here who are interested in rejuvenating the area.”

Mr. Torres moved his young family to Victorian Flatbush from Clinton Hill about three years ago, and opened his shop in April.

Prospects for a tidy and well-manicured street is attracting higher-end businesses to Cortelyou Road. Stores selling wine, confections, and shabby-chic furniture are slated to open later this year.

“A lot of people are moving here from Park Slope,” the owner of the furniture store Trailer Park, Chris Houghton, said. “There’s a lot going on there. It’s a very happening place.”

Trailer Park has a Park Slope location, and plans to open a second location on Cortelyou Road on October 20.

“Right now, if you buy a slice of pizza here, there’s no place to sit and eat, there’s no place to hang out,” the FDC’s director of economic development, Catherine Hickey, said. “We’re hoping the new amenities will tie the street together, and create a more public space.”


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