Caspi creates a hit as firm gets its groove on in Brooklyn

93 Waverly is as Brooklyn as it gets. The new Clinton Hill rental building’s rooftop boasts oak and tin planters, designed for tenants to grow their own vegetables and herbs.
Its lobby is covered in wallpaper showing everything that’s typical of the borough — from Hasidic Jews to Notorious B.I.G. The paper was designed by Beastie Boy Mike D, who lives in nearby Cobble Hill.

All of the above makes it so much more surprising that 93 Waverly’s developer is a complete outsider to the Brooklyn market.

Caspi Development, based in Purchase, NY, has built in Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester, but never before in New York’s largest borough. “It’s extremely difficult to find real opportunities in Brooklyn, and it took me several years to break into market,” said Joshua Caspi, the company’s principal. “We were an outsider, and the goal was to find something that gave us a foot in the door.”

Flush with outside funds, Caspi Development has ambitious plans in Brooklyn. But it certainly isn’t jumping into the borough with a big splash.

93 Waverly is a relatively small development with four floors and 17 units — a mix of duplex studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms. Prices range from $1,900 for a studio to $3,590 for a two-bedroom with its own rooftop terrace. The complex includes 13 apartments and four duplexes, which face the back and have their own yard areas.

Put on the market on September 14 and marketed exclusively by aptsandlofts.com, 14 of the 17 units are currently under contract.
Caspi got the idea for roof-top gardening from his younger brother, a music student at Berklee.

“He is an avid agriculturalist, and said to me ‘You should create a fully-fledged farm on the roof.’ I told him I couldn’t do that,” Caspi said. But the wood and tin boxes were a feasible alternative.

Caspi found a company in Tennessee that makes furniture and floors out of reclaimed antique barnyard wood. They designed the planting boxes together over Facetime.
The building’s appeal also lies in its unconventionally designed apartments. Each unit has 20-foot ceilings and a small, windowless room that can be reached either over a wooden ladder from the living room or through a door from the corridor on the floor above.

“This isn’t your typical cookie-cutter building,” said Vittorio Faricelli, the rental manager for the building. “The owner wanted to set the building apart. People like sunlight, and what better way to get sunlight than by having high ceilings and big windows.”

The somewhat church-sized windows in a one-bedroom apartment look out on a quiet, tree-lined street in one of Brooklyn’s hottest neighborhoods.
“We saw Clinton Hill as one of the biggest growth areas,” said Caspi. “I’ve been studying the geography of Brooklyn for some time. Most areas lining Manhattan have become overpriced, so I thought: why not go a bit further east.”

Clinton Hill is close to Manhattan and Williamsburg, while still offering “more bang for your buck,” Faricelli put it.

Caspi Development has long been a household name in Westchester, where it is currently building the open-air shopping center Heritage White Plains. Over the last few years, the company acquired 1,600 apartments in Manhattan and the Bronx, building several Manhattan hotels along the way. Brooklyn seemed like the next logical step.

Opportunity struck when a friend introduced Caspi to Michael Bernstein, a principal at Washington-based real-estate investment fund Artemis Capital Partners. The two men realized that they shared a vision of development in up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhoods Crown Heights, Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The two companies formed a partnership with the goal of acquiring 400 to 500 units in Brooklyn over the next few years.

Caspi said that having a big investor behind him makes things a lot easier. “We paid for 93 Waverly in cash and closed the deal in 48 hours,” he explained.
The partnership recently closed on a six-unit house in BedStuy and Caspi said he is working on a second deal he expects to close in November.
If everything goes according to plan, Caspi Development will soon be a household name in Brooklyn, too.