Virtual reality real estate tours

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Adam Greene is developing five blocks of Downtown Brooklyn into 16 buildings housing 6,400 units and more than 8 million square feet of floor space.

"One of the biggest components of it," Greene, vice president of residential development for Forest City Ratner, said, "is the eight-acre public space that's going to be at the heart of Brooklyn and the heart of the project."

Unless you're an architect who's worked on this project, it requires a lot of imagination to envision what the muddy construction site northeast of Barclays Center will look like when the work's finished and the sun's shining. Virtual reality allows prospective buyers a better idea of what they might be buying.

"It's different to look at flat drawings and flat renderings," Greene said. "This is just another tool to help people with a different lens to get into the project."

Greene and the rest of the Pacific Park team found themselves struggling to communicate just how completely they expected this nearly $5 billion project -- still a decade away from completion -- which began with the construction of Barclays Center, to transform the entire borough.

"There's nothing on this scale that's going on in Brooklyn right now," Greene said.

And so, Pacific Park invested in virtual reality. On Tuesday, Greene demonstrated the program, popping a Samsung phone into a headset and placing the goggles over his eyes.

"And then you just go in," he said.

While wearing the goggles -- or less immersively viewing the animation online at -- one sees and hears the wind rustling the leaves on the trees atop a grassy knoll in a park surrounded by glassy apartment buildings. Traveling to the same location without the goggles, one finds a wet rail yard sunken below street level.

"Once you're outside in the park and you see the trees moving and the water dancing," Greene said of the virtual tour, "you see people walking through the lobby and you instinctively want to follow them inside and go into the unit."

Virtual Pacific Park doesn't yet offer that option, but Greene believes it soon might, along with a host of other immersive experiences as we move toward a future where virtual reality helps to rent and sell actual real estate.

"This is the future of real estate," Greene said. "Once you go into this and you start building the entire scene, you put the goggles on, I think there's no going back."