Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Brooklyn Rebound: imagination, transportation, and some factors developers don't mention

So, how did Brooklyn bounce back? It's interesting to see how real estate developers explain it.

Brooklyn Rebound, a 10/13/14 article in Urban Land, the publication of the Urban Land Institute, describes the boom in DUMBO and Williamsburg, the former a "hub for more than 400 digital businesses" and the latter "a 21st-century urban village that is a magnet for young musicians, artists, and members of the creative class."

The article states:
But if the resurgence of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and other parts of the new Brooklyn offers a lesson for the rest of the world, it is about the importance of having the imagination to see nascent trends and opportunities and the agility to move quickly to capitalize on them.
Indeed, developer David Walentas sought to attract financial firms to DUMBO before converting old manufacturing and warehouse buildings into condos, while practicing a savvy strategy of leasing--often below market--to artists and unique retail.

The arrival of digital companies seeking affordable office space was unplanned, and Walentas's company allowed short-term leases, attractive to the start-up culture.

Williamsburg "underwent a parallel evolution," suggests the article, but that's not exactly true.

Yes, in Williamsburg, there was fallow industrial space coveted by artists as well, but there was also a longstanding residential community. (Unmentioned: the city's 2005 rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the crucial change that led to new investment.)

Atlantic Yards gets a mention:
The arena is envisioned as an anchor of Atlantic Yards, a massive development project featuring modular construction that has been in the works for more than a decade and reportedly is now scheduled to begin construction in 2015.
Um, the B2 modular tower had a groundbreaking in December 2012. And while the Atlantic Yards site was not formally rezoned, the state agreed to override city zoning to give the developer the right to build much larger buildings than previously permitted. 

The discussion: was Brooklyn "written off"?

The Real Deal, in a 10/22/14 article headlined This is how Brooklyn got its cool, described a panel at the Urban Land Institute conference. But they got the summary wrong:
Between 1965 and 1985, Brooklyn suffered from the urban crisis, said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, during a discussion about Brooklyn’s renaissance during the Urban Land Institute’s fall meeting at the Jacob Javits Center on Wednesday afternoon. During that time, the borough’s “thriving manufacturing” industry was lost and residents left the area in droves.
“People had written off Brooklyn,” Wylde said.
Not exactly. As architectural critic and historian Francis Morrone noted in a speech I quoted in April 2011, that was an era of gentrification in the midst of crime, when several sturdy historic districts were established in the orbit of Downtown Brooklyn.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, credited the Brooklyn boom on the extensive transportation network, which helps fuel the Barclays Center.

I think that's a bit reductive, since the Bronx also has great transportation. I'd say the historic districts noted above, and the quality lifestyle available in them, was a template for the reinvestment in Brooklyn--as was the advent of immigrants starting in the mid-1960s. After all, the revival of Prospect Park came before the most furious waves of gentrification.

Andrew Kimball, chief executive officer at Industry City, cited "the opportunity of creating new affordable housing that can be planned and built close to where people work," in the Real Deal's paraphrase. I'm not sure how much of that is coming, but we'll see. 

He also cited, naturally, Industry City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which he currently runs and formerly ran, places now available to “new, creative industries.”

Former Borough President Marty Markowitz, now vice president for Borough Promotion at NYC & Co., apparently provided some typical shtick about how Brooklyn is not an “outer borough.”

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and former director of the city’s Department of City Planning Brooklyn office, cited the major improvement in the borough's safety, which I'd say is very significant but--as Morrone noted--actually not the catalyst.

No one, at least in this report, mentioned the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn and the North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, which created a tremendous boom in the value of land.

How Crown Heights changed

Brooklynian has a photo essay on how Crown Heights changed between 2007 and 2013. Surely the availability of transportation and the reduction in crime were crucial catalysts to the gentrification of Franklin Avenue.

But the cascading effect of wealth in Manhattan and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, including the international money and intergenerational assistance, also has bid up the price of real estate throughout the city, making Crown Heights an ever more expensive alternative.

All the new restaurants

And now, reports AM New York, this year's Zagat Survey "has 340 Brooklyn eateries in the 2015 New York City guide, 75 more than last year<" the largest jump in 20 years.which opened in July.

Tim Zagat, the guide's co-founder, said New Yorkers' tastes are changing and the influx of new Brooklyn residents, developments and amenities such as the Barclays Center led to the creation of great restaurants.

"When I was growing up, generally people went from Brooklyn to Manhattan to eat. Now it's the opposite," he said. "Everything in Brooklyn is becoming more fashionable."

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