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Corcoran’s still hot on the Hook

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Is Red Hook’s slip showing?

A renovated storefront at 293 Van Brunt Street — the ground floor of a building famously bought two years ago by the real-estate legend herself, Barbara Corcoran, for $1.075 million — is still vacant, despite Corcoran’s boast that she could get $2,500 a month for the space.

It’s now priced to move at $1,800 — and it still hasn’t moved.

“A number of storefronts are empty,” says one local businessperson. “It’s not that easy to fill them.”

But this building was supposed to be different! Corcoran’s Red Hook buy was the real-estate equivalent of David Bowie calling a band his favorite. Asking prices in the neighborhood started going up once Barbara Corcoran had made her bet on Red Hook.

Yes, some new businesses have opened in the last year, including a jewelry shop and a high-end soap emporium, but they are all mostly clustered on Van Brunt between Wolcott Street and the Fairway.

The “Barbara Corcoran Storefront” (yes, that’s what some people in the neighborhood call it) is several blocks north.

When Corcoran bought the three-story building, she was projecting $2,500 a month in rent for the storefront, and $1,600 and $1,750 monthly for two apartments upstairs. The apartments eventually rented, but the storefront still sits.

The Corcoran Web site still beckons with a glowing description.

“IMAGINE having the entire ground floor, basement and the backyard of a townhouse for the business of your dreams,” it says. “Open, airy and filled with light, this would be perfect for a restaurant, artist’s space/gallery or retail store. … Fairway supermarket is now open and the Queen Mary cruise ships have arrived!”

The ship may have come in to Red Hook, but a tenant has not.

But don’t draw the wrong conclusion, said the Corcoran broker assigned to the property.

“This property is not in trouble, and neither is Red Hook,” said Beth Kenkel, the agent. “We all strongly believe in Red Hook. Some people thought Barbara bought the building as some kind of press ploy. And, yes, she may have overpaid just a bit, but in the long run, this is going to be a great investment.”

Kenkel said that Corcoran has fielded “many offers” on the property, but “Barbara is very discerning about whom she’ll rent to. But I can tell you this: I am on the verge of renting this out. I may be calling you in two days with a big story.”

Kenkel reiterated that prices in the neighborhood are still rising, an indication that renters, buyers and investors are still bullish on a neighborhood that has been on seemingly everyone’s “hot” list for a year.

“Believe me, it’s still hot,” said Kenkel.

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