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In Hey BK podcast, Regina Myer says: "No one in the early 2000s understood how strong the residential market would be in any place in Brooklyn"

Given that real estate executive Ofer Cohen now chairs the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, as I wrote yesterday, I thought I'd again check out his Hey BK podcast, in which he interviews various people in the real estate world. (Here's coverage of the previous MaryAnne Gilmartin episode.)

Cohen in April interviewed his future partner, Regina Myer, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and formerly head of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, and previously heading the Department of City Planning's Brooklyn office.

At about 8:18, after talking about development in Williamsburg, Cohen observed, "You guys probably had no idea residential development was going to take off. Nobody had the idea that rents are going to go up and support the residential development that eventually happened in such massive scale."

"No one in the early 2000s," Myer replied, "understood how strong the residential market would be in any place in Brooklyn." (Sure, especially since Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned for office space, with no provision for affordable housing, but the trends were certainly there.)

She asked when he moved to Brooklyn--2004 and what was it like?

"It was a bargain," Cohen responded. They both chuckled. He started the company in 2008: "I thought it would take 20 years for this to be like a Manhattan market. Instead, it took five years."

Reflecting back

Myer considered it a turning point when DUMBO developer David Walentas "came in and said we want to rezone DUMBO." The rezoning was 1997.

"What we realized on the government side was it was that kind of investment could really change the borough," Myer said. "Before there was DUMBO, there wasn't this idea that Brooklyn was really moving ahead... all of sudden releasing all this great energy in an area that mostly had been disinvested in."

Well, it depends on what part of Brooklyn you were looking at.

"That showed that the energy in a neighborhood like Brooklyn Heights could move to other places, and that more people were interested in the borough," Myer said. "This is also at a time when government had for the past, say, 20 or 30 years had been spending all their energy in Brooklyn literally stabilizing the borough, making it sure it was safe, making sure the schools functioned, and making sure they were using public sector monies for housing appropriately."

At about 14:28, Cohen asks what's next. Myer cites "major sites that I think are in the best locations can transform Downtown Brooklyn into an office center... We have to be continually competitive. I think that sites like the Alloy site [80 Flatbush] and 625 Fulton have the opportunity to be the places where there's the next big move for office growth and mixed-used growth... the locations are perfect."

Of course Myer has lobbied for 80 Flatbush, which is mostly a residential project.

An entrepreneur and a lobbyist 

Also check out Cohen's interview with Brownstoner and Brooklyn Flea/Smogasburg founder Jonathan Butler. At about 7:41, he recalls how Council Member Letitia James connected him to Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School to find space for the Brooklyn Flea, which gained enormous velocity from smaller outlets like Curbed, the Brooklyn Paper, and soon the New York Times.

Smorgasburg has moved around, thanks to "arbitraging short-term real estate opportunities," using temporarily fallow space not yet activated for real estate development. Butler said he's most proud of seeing food businesses that started as Smorg stalls to become standalone businesses: "I really think we're the biggest small-business incubator in New York City."

Also on Hey BK, check out the interview with real estate lobbyist Jacqui Williams of 99 Solutions, a key operative in reaching black communities. Her clients have included IKEA, the New York Jets, Brooklyn Law School, Thor Equities, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Coca-Cola, Cablevision, Albee Development, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

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