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City Living Boerum Hill

Boerum Hill, the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood surrounded by Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and Gowanus, got its name in the ’60s.

That’s when Helen Buckler, a community activist, decided that the neighborhood needed a public relations boost to try to attract homesteaders.

The name Buckler chose refers to the family of Simon Boerum who lived on the corner of Fulton and Hoyt Streets and represented Brooklyn in the Continental Congress. The Hill that existed in Boerum’s time was razed long ago.

It is amazing to think that this slice of Brooklyn, with its stunning row houses, historic district with almost 250 homes, cafes and performance spaces, and its own piece of Atlantic Avenue lined with designer shops and Smith Street with its restaurant row, ever needed marketing help.

When asked how hot (or not) the Boerum Hill real estate market is today, Katherine Akerly of the Aguayo Team at Halstead Property Development Marketing said: “Boerum Hill is always hot. It’s small, has very little inventory and a high level of demand. The neighborhood is attractive to everyone -- the tree-lined blocks and 19th century brownstones are a perennial draw as is the proximity to Smith and Court Streets, a new Trader Joe’s, [the Brooklyn Academy of Music], the Barclays Center.”

“The average price per square foot for listings that have closed recently was $783 per square foot, but with the lack of inventory we're seeing sellers get more aggressive on their asking prices and listings are now averaging $923 per square foot,” she added.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, folks who considered themselves urban homesteaders would buy a row house for $20,000, roll up their sleeves, renovate and then rent out a floor or two to help pay the mortgage. People who are buying now are more likely to buy their “dream house” for millions.

Still, Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2 which includes Boerum Hill, thinks of it as “the most unassuming neighborhood that I’m acquainted with. It doesn’t have a commercial strip of its own and the core of the neighborhood is residential which is what contributes to its character.”

When Boerum Hill was being developed from the 1840s to 1870, it was a bastion of the middle class. Physically, the neighborhood of Italianate, Gothic Revival and Greek revival row houses has changed very little since those earliest days.

"Once our neighborhood was considered a place you walked through to get to Cobble Hill or Park Slope or Fort Greene. Not anymore. We've become a destination," says Jessica Fishkind, who moved there from the Upper West Side. Her only complaint: "We could use more sushi."

Shari Sperling, a broker at Halstead's office on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, is also bullish on the neighborhood.

"You can get into a lot of retail trouble along Atlantic Avenue," at stores that sell $400 bikinis to customers like Rihanna and Kate Hudson, hip designer clothing, shops, mid-century modern furniture and handmade wedding and engagement rings, she said. -MARJORIE A. COHEN

Celebrities who have lived in Boerum Hill:

Ethan Hawke, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer

Jonathan Lethem’s two books, “Motherless Brooklyn” and “The Fortress of Solitude,” are set in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014