Brooklyn / Real estate / Urban development

Co-living space Common seeks to co-exist with Crown Heights neighbors

The 19-unit experiment in communal housing sits across the street from a castle for homeless men.

Common announced Monday the site of its Crown Heights co-living space, a four-story brownstone at 1162 Pacific Ave.
The announcement marks the beginning of what has the potential to be a huge change in the way people live.
“With exposed brick walls, big bedrooms, and large, airy common spaces, it had the potential to incubate a strong, tight-knit community of members. The rear garden and roof deck simply added to the appeal,” Common wrote in its announcement. “Our mission is to rethink housing from the ground up, answering the question of what residential living would look like if it were designed from scratch today.”

A living room in Common.

A living room in Common. (Courtesy photo)

Common received 150 applications for its 19 spots in its first week, so the demand certainly appears to be there. Rent is listed on the site at $1,800 per month.
“One of the challenges is that these cities have a big mismatch between supply and demand for housing. I saw the New York problem first-hand,” founder Brad Hargreaves said in our interview from July. “Our students [at General Assembly] would come and typically wouldn’t qualify for a lease and would end up going to Craigslist and would rent a space from a stranger. Some of those are great and some were really, really bad.”

Common finds itself in a changing Crown Heights neighborhood. Its placement there will certainly be seen by some as emblematic of that change. What was in the 1990s the place of historic race riots between African-Americans and Lubavitcher Jews is now front and center in the war over which cafe has the best pumpkin spice latte.
Across the street from the Common compound is the glorious red-brick 23rd Regiment Armory, which takes up most of the block. The armory was built in the 1890s and looks basically like a brick castle, with turrets and everything. Currently it’s being used as a shelter for about 350 homeless men. But this too has the potential for redevelopment. In 2013 the city sent out a request for proposal to developers for redevelopment projects for the armory. The city ultimately scuttled development of the armory, though it doesn’t sound like the idea is dead. A similar, though larger armory in the Bronx is set for a $345 million project to make it a massive skating rink.
The bet Common is making is that Crown Heights will continue to become a desirable place to live. That it is itself a part of that change is not lost on the company. A portion of Common’s announcement self-consciously talks about community involvement:

Our first residence is in the heart of Crown Heights, a vibrant neighborhood with great access to transportation, unique locally-owned businesses, and a friendly atmosphere. As we grow our own community, we will seek to build bridges into and relationships with the existing community that lives, works, and plays in Crown Heights.

We’ll see how it goes! It’s an interesting experiment.

Series: Brooklyn

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