Downtown Condo Guys

The Fifth Avenue backside of the new Denizen apartments in Hillcrest is slightly less taller than the main section of the building facing Sixth Avenue. (By Frank Sabatini Jr.)
Real Estate Development, Hillcrest

New ‘Denizen’ Apartment Building in Hillcrest is Generating a Buzz

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

The near-completion of the eight-floor Denizen luxury-apartment building in the heart of Hillcrest has already come with its fair share of kudos and complaints.

Rising from the lot where the abandoned Pernicano’s restaurant stood for decades, the structure faces out to Sixth Avenue between University Avenue and Robinson Street. Its width extends to a smaller side on Fifth Avenue, just as Pernicano’s did.

Denizen has been lauded for replacing what became a chronic eyesore ever since Pernicano’s shuttered in the early 80s. It features 151 apartment units and ground-floor space on Fifth Avenue for a retail tenant or two.

The building is currently accepting applications from prospective renters, and it’s slated to open March 1.

“Anything is better than the decrepit building that was there before,” said nearby resident Chuck McAllister, whose sentiments were echoed by a slew of people commenting on various online posts about the project. Others praised the developer (Camden) for adding to the city’s low housing inventory and for not displacing any previous affordable housing.

In addition, Denizen’s amenities are proving attractive to applicants. A rep relayed to us that “about 90 percent” of the units feature designated, underground parking – a rarity in new, urban housing developments.

There is also a rooftop pool and barbecue area; a pet spa and dog wash; a clubhouse and gaming area; a common workspace; plus recent tree plantings on Sixth Avenue that were funded in part by the developer.

Most of the negative reactions to the project point to Denizen’s rent costs. Studio apartments measuring 526 square feet, for example, go for $2,740 per month. One-bedroom units ranging from 543 to 810 square feet run between $3,090 to $3,590 per month. And two-bedrooms ranging from 877 to 1,083 square feet are priced between $4,135 and $4,535 per month.

The rep we spoke to said none of the units were earmarked for affordable housing – “at least for now.”

In addition, those with a thirst for unique architecture have expressed disappointment in the building’s lack of aesthetics and towering height.

“It looks quite tall for the neighborhood,” stated Dan Clarke in a Facebook comment.

“Great, another ugly, square building,” wrote Hec Sol in the same comment thread. Others voiced frustration over the developer’s lack of regard to color and detail, referring at times to Denizen’s “gray, drab exterior.”

Have you walked or driven past Denizen yet? If so, let us know your thoughts about the project.