Retail Mecca in the Making: Tech Triangle, Gowanus Canal, and Brooklyn’s 10-Year Outlook
BY RYAN CONDREN
Where will Brooklyn be in 10 years?
It’s a question I get a lot in my line of work at CPEX Real Estate. A landlord may ask about the value of his property, a tenant may be looking for the ideal location, or a local resident may wonder who’s taking over the vacant storefront down the block; in short, everyone wants to know what direction their neighborhood is headed.
That’s why I decided to break out my crystal ball and make some bold predictions on where Brooklyn – GQ’s “coolest city on the planet” – is heading and which retail corridors will benefit as a result.
With more than 2.5 million residents, Brooklyn would be the fourth largest metropolis in the country if it were an independent city. While technically part of New York City ever since residents voted in favor of the 1898 merge, Brooklyn is emerging as its own entity once again.
Former manufacturing areas have been rezoned to offer spacious havens for artists, while Brooklyn’s lower density also provides an abundance of parks and bike paths for residents to enjoy. Now more than ever, Brooklyn is a place to live, work, and play.
Over the past decade, entrepreneurs have introduced a number of technology and other creative companies to DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yards, providing a significant spike in employment opportunities within the borough. Currently, over 75 percent of Brooklyn Tech Triangle employees are Brooklyn residents; by 2015, 48 percent of the Tech Triangle companies expect to double in size, for a total of 18,000 employees contributing $5.8 billion to the economy. This rise in employment will continue to push the boundaries of residential neighborhoods and add to Brooklyn’s charm and character.
With its proximity to the Tech Triangle – the borough’s expanding network of biking lanes places it just a short ride away – Franklin Avenue will be the primary beneficiary of the area’s coming influx of employees and residents. Add in easy access to public transportation and beautiful brownstones sprinkled with new development projects, and Franklin Avenue, already resembling Smith Street’s “Restaurant Row” of ten years ago, will eventually become a 24/7 destination with a mix of culinary, apparel, and service retail.
The Gowanus is set up to be a perfect example of Brooklyn’s transition from industrial shipping center to residential and retail destination. In March 2010, the Gowanus Canal was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency, starting the decade-long, $500 million process of cleaning the 1.8 mile-long toxic waterway. The project isn’t expected to be completed before the year 2022, but will certainly usher in a flood of retailers and restaurants.
3rd Avenue should benefit the most from the bulk of new establishments entering the Gowanus. According to our CPEX Retail Report, rental prices along 3rd Avenue are currently $35 to $49 per square foot, but should skyrocket to close to $100 a foot – figures comparable to 7th Avenue in Park Slope. In fact, Whole Foods and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que are already set to pioneer the area, sites both businesses expect to be among their highest grossing locations in the country.
As in the Gowanus, the Brooklyn food scene overall is showing signs of flourishing. Brooklyn is rapidly emerging as a culinary epicenter, and as such has been recently called the “Silicon Valley” of food. “Restaurant Rows” are starting to pop up everywhere, from Vanderbilt Avenue to Cortelyou Road, and weekly markets like the Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea are becoming increasingly popular centers for aficionados of artisanal food. Issued food permits have increased by 25 percent in the last five years, and according to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, one out of every six businesses in the borough is food-related. As banks, pharmacies, and cell phone stores continue to overpay for Manhattan locations and thereby price entrepreneurs out of the Manhattan market, restaurateurs will eschew “Concrete Island” for Brooklyn’s food scene, further enhancing the borough’s reputation as a refuge for “foodies.”
Neighborhoods like Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Garden, and Sunset Park will continue to transform, and these formerly scorned areas of Brooklyn will come to have a primary corridor of its own, maybe even becoming “The Next Smith Street.”
Just ask Moe Issa, owner of Brooklyn Fare, the borough’s only three-star Michelin restaurant. He opened in 2009 on Schermerhorn Street, not renowned for its high-end retail opportunities.
“Everyone is migrating into Brooklyn,” said Issa. “It’s a hopping place with cheaper rent, and people can see what we’ve been able to accomplish on this side of the bridge.”
Indeed, the Brooklyn brand is so successful that Issa won’t even change the name when he opens his second Brooklyn Fare location in Manhattan.
“Everybody is using the name Brooklyn, because it’s hip. All the new developments, the facelift to Fulton Street, what happened to Downtown Brooklyn from 1980 to now – the writing was on the wall that Brooklyn would be the next place to go crazy.
“That’s why I opened Brooklyn Fare here three years ago, and that’s why I definitely see this trend continuing.”
So where will Brooklyn be in 10 years?
Check back with 40-year-old me to find out.
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