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The Barclays Center's mixed retail impact, flux on Flatbush, and the very unfinished picture

I'm leading a walking tour Sunday of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center/Prospect Heights (via Municipal Art Society), and present several posts in preparation. One thing to remember: the project remains very much in process. Some impacts feared, expected, or welcomed have not emerged because they were calculated on a larger/full buildout.

It's clear that the Barclays Center, combined with ongoing gentrification, has driven retail rents up nearby and shifted the mix on those nearby blocks toward purveyors of food and drink, plus some clothing.

The enduring question: who has this helped and hurt? Landlords have clearly benefited, though some have been waiting a while to collect higher rents. Some long-time tenants have been pushed out.

Some new ones have found less than what they expected, either from arena crowds that don't like to go far or because the housing associated with the project--and the new customer base--has not yet arrived.

And others have been riding the wave of new customers, from both arena visitors and ongoing gentrification and growth.

So the term I consistently hear is "mixed." (See more optimistic coverage in Capital NY and more skeptical from WNYC, and this rundown of lost businesses--or, perhaps, just churn--from Brooklynian commenters.)

After all, the arena is a new organism in the neighborhood and, despite efforts to highlight Brooklyn businesses and neighborhood, has an understandable interest in keeping people inside the building and paying captive-audience prices for food and drink.

Also, crucially, after some two-and-a-half years, some crucial locations have yet to be rented.

Looking at the change

Above right is an example of change: the Doughnut Plant took over a space at Flatbush Avenue, Bergen Street, and Sixth Avenue that was formerly occupied by the downmarket Yummy Taco.

It's also right at the 2/3 subway stop so presumably aims at morning commuters and afternoon snackers more than the arena crowd.

Then again, it's a block and a half from the Dean Street entrance of the arena--the south end--and arenagoers certainly visit.

Above left, however, is an example of stasis: the former home of Triangle Sports, at Fifth and Flatbush avenues just opposite the arena, still hasn't been rented, though it sold for $4.1 million in September 2012.

It's an odd space, perhaps awkward for food. But it's not the only spot very, very close to the arena sitting empty.

Right opposite the arena, there's a new True Religion jeans store and a new, gangbusters Shake Shack. (That probably isn't the best news for the earlier-established 67 Burger further up Flatbush.)

Note that the Pintchik family, owner of the eponymous hardware store and by far the largest landowner along Flatbush, has tried to "curate" the retail, rejecting, among others, Hooter's, while signing Shake Shack.

Retail vacancy

In between True Religion and Shake Shack is an empty store that operated as a pop-up for Nike during NBA All-Star Weekend. It's a prime location, of course.

On the other side of Shake Shack, going south on Flatbush, is a row of low-rise retail, all emptied. (I'm not sure if a new building is coming, but it would seem logical.)

Just west of the True Religion store, as Flatbush Avenue turns into Pacific Street, is a building--a former mattress and furniture warehouse--that was once said to become a gastropub and sports bar, but has remained empty. See photo at left.

In fact, the space just to the west (right in photo) of that larger building is empty.

For a brief it was home to a sports lounge called Machavelle, which closed as of February 2013, just four months after the arena opened. This is right across the street from the arena, remember.

Bars and restaurants have understandably done best. One unsuccessful effor the Red Legged Devils Tattoo Studio on Flatbush Avenue half a block from the arena, which opened 8/25/13, last tweeted 12/17/14, and, as the photo suggests, bore an eviction notice not long ago.

It was the project of former TLC's “NY Ink” star Chris Torres, raised in Midwood.

When the studio opened, it got coverage from the Daily News and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which quoted Torres as saying, “I'm not a b-ball fan – I'm a foot-traffic fan."

The Pintchiks rented the space with an eye to a varied experience on the strip--a successful tactic in some cases--but this time it didn't work out.

Newcomers on the way

But it's also crucial to recognize that we are seeing a snapshot in time.

Flatbush has always been in flux, but rising rents mean more challenges for smaller businesses.

I don't know the story behind the Udjat Hair Salon and Bikram Yoga Park Slope, on the north side of Flatbush east of Sixth Avenue near St. Marks Avenue, pictured at left.

But I'd bet that at least one of their replacements will serve food or beverages. That may be inevitable with a crowd magnet like Barclays, but it does push a retail strip toward more of a mono-culture.

While walking on Flatbush last week, I ran into an old neighbor, who spoke somewhat enthusiastically about embraced the changes--it's helped boost the value of the apartment he bought a few years ago.

He also lamented the loss of Park Slope Stationers, the well-located shop on Park Place right near the entrance to the Seventh Avenue stop on the Q/B. It's now a Starbucks.

How far arena impact

Some wonder about how far arenagoers might walk. A recent post on Here's Park Slope noted "Perfect Potato" Coming to 172 Fifth Avenue.

One commenter scoffed that this location, at Sackett Street, was something of a dead zone, with "no drunk crowds looking for junk food on this strip" and too far for arena visitors who "barely go a few blocks away" and would more likely go to Shake Shack.

Indeed, not only is Shake Shack very close to the arena, more restaurants are coming nearby.

Consider the photo at right, which suggests some glaringly empty retail spaces on Flatbush Avenue just beyond Dean Street, very close to the arena.

Well, a couple of those storefronts--formerly home to medical facilities--are supposed to become a branch of SoHo's Parm.

There's been a significant amount of turnover in the world of restaurants and bars.

Down the block from the coming Parm location is the incoming Don Chingon, a Mexican restaurant on the south side of Flatbush coming in the old Fish & Sip space. It's just far enough away from the arena--I suspect--to bet more on local residents, though surely arenagoers will help.

Fifth Avenue below Flatbush has turned into an strip with several bars, notably McMahon's (the more sanitized successor to the dive O'Connor's).

Arena crowds definitely go to those bars, but that hasn't meant stability.  Here's Park Slope reported Cyprus Avenue and Black Sheep Pub May be Closed for Good on 2/27/15, noting the closings of two bars at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bergen Street.

Commenters weighed in. One wrote, "Following the opening of Barclay's Center, [Cyprus Avenue] seemed to retool a bit to cater to that new crowd. It lost its charm and I never went back."

Another said he'd visited Black Sheep, where work was going on, and a new bar there would open in June. So expect some new bars aiming at new crowds.

New residents coming

Finally, of course, remember that the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers will have retail at their base. And that they will deliver thousands of new consumers, which will further change the retail picture.

Meanwhile, as noted in the photo at right, there will be some smaller projects. The building at 227 Flatbush is just south of Dean Street.

There's another, taller building (six or eight stories) coming at the corner of Flatbush and Dean. And, of course, across the street, there's the stalled-but-reviving B2 tower, 32 stories.


  1. Anonymous8:13 PM

    The long term perspective of this post makes it clear that the soul is being sucked out of the neighborhood and is being replaced with a much blander, suburban style presence.
    Inevitable, probably. A lost opportunity to be notably different and better, definitely.


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