The Impact of the L Train Shutdown on Williamsburg Real Estate

The Ewen at 245 Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The Ewen at 245 Manhattan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Williamsburg has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in New York City. Long before it became a destination for the people who visit and live there today, it used to be a neighborhood known for its abandoned warehouses and artist lofts. As happens with many neighborhoods that were once upon popular with artists, Williamsburg became an "it" neighborhood. 

Read: Blooming Sky's Bushwick Guide

Attracting visitors from across the world, with its easy access from Manhattan by way of the L Train subway, Williamsburg also known as Billyburg, became an instrumental part of the Brooklyn brand and revival.

The L Train is Paved in Gold

Over the past decade, real estate developers have taken to new projects on the Brooklyn waterfront, which has resulted in luxury condominium development in Williamsburg. The first stop on the L train in Brooklyn is the Bedford Avenue stop, which served the development of the waterfront. As condominium prices and rents continued to rise in the full-service luxury buildings that began to dot the waterfront, developers continued pushing projects further along the L train corridor. They saw there was demand, a reliable mode of transportation, and they continued to build.

L Train line represented in gray

L Train line represented in gray

This ultimately led the the development of condo and rental projects along Lorimer Street, Graham Avenue and Grand Street. As Williamsburg development moved further east, transforming what would become East Williamsburg, Bushwick also began to benefit from the increasing demand for property. For developers, there was (and still is) money to be made along the L Train. 

The L subway line is so important to riders that there is a site dedicated to notifying riders of its service: Is the L Train Running?

The L Train is Shutting Down for 18 Months in 2019

On the Halloween of 2012, Hurricane Sandy pummeled through New York City and destroyed important infrastructure with flooding the city hasn't seen in an entire century. One of the key pieces of infrastructure that was badly damaged included MTA subway tunnels that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn. The two L train tubes that run underneath the East River were severely compromised and are in need of significant repair to maintain the structural integrity for decades to come. In July of 2016, it was announced that the L Train would be shutting down service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 18 months to allow for needed repairs. Repairs will start in January of 2019.

UPDATE 12/18/17

The total shutdown will only last 15 months, as opposed to the initially proposed 18 months. Additionally, the NY Times just published an article on how public transportation alternatives will cope with the shutdown.

How are Williamsburg Real Estate Prices being Impacted?

After the announcement, there was immediate panic about the state of the real estate market in Williamsburg. Were prices going to come crashing down? Was this announcement by the MTA a kiss of death for the neighborhood? Absolutely not.

The Williamsburg condo market has definitely seen some level of softening leading up to the train shutdown, but prices are still trending in the $1,100 to $1,400 per square foot range. There are numerous factors that go into which spectrum of the range the pricing falls into. The most important factors include how new the development is, the amenities package and how close the development is to other potential transportation options while the L train is not in service. 

While there is some short-term pain and slight softening with price cuts and opportunity to negotiate, the long-term trajectory for the Williamsburg condo market still remains strong. If apartment owners can make it through the end of the repairs, they will be in great shape. Don't expect too big of a discount if you're thinking of buying while the L train is down. Everybody knows the L will be coming back online 18 months later. Here is how real estate developers are riding out the shutdown. For renters, there will definitely be some flexibility to pay rents up to 10% lower than market average during this time period. It is important to note that Williamsburg has seen some major retailers moving into the neighborhood, such as Whole Foods and Apple. Trader Joe's will be landing soon as well. Having these retailers in a neighborhood always bodes well for property valuations.

L Train Alternatives during Shutdown

While the L is clearly one of the major arteries into the neighborhood, there will still be many alternatives:

  • J/M/Z Trains from Marcy Avenue to Downtown Manhattan
  • G Train, which can be used to transfer to numerous other lines in Downtown Brooklyn or transfer to the 7 Train which will take you to Midtown Manhattan within minutes
  • East River ferries, which will be increasing their service
  • MTA Bus Service
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Many new condominium developments, such as the Austin Nichols House at 184 Kent Avenue, will also be offering bus service to the J/M/Z subway stop. Large, premium rental developments will likely do the same to attract and keep tenants.
New developments will be offering methods to getting to alternative modes of transportation while the L train is offline.

New developments will be offering methods to getting to alternative modes of transportation while the L train is offline.

Lookout for Williamsburg Opportunities

With the shutdown looming in the near future, now is the time to seek out opportunities. With sellers willing to negotiate and offer concessions such as paying transfer taxes and other closing costs, this could be the perfect time to strike. Blooming Sky specializes in working with buyers to seek out NYC real estate investment opportunities. While people are busy swimming with the tide, now may be the time to take a contrarian view and go against it. This is actually quite similar to what happened with the Second Avenue subway line. While there was an inconvenience for several years associated with the construction of the first phase of the Second Avenue line (the Q Train), property values on the Upper East Side have been dramatically increasing since its recent completion.

Looking to learn more about opportunities that may exist in Williamsburg? Reach out to us today for a free consultation.