Brooklyn Boro

Survey of Montague Street reveals problems and opportunities

January 26, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff

“With the right mix of stores and services, this community would turn out much more aggressively to support local business.”

Those words support and validate a premise that many residents of Brooklyn Heights have expressed in a recent survey of opinions on Montague Street. The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) launched the Community Survey in early December, reaching respondents via direct emails, social media and the Brooklyn Heights Association website. 

In the wake of a devastating pandemic that has destroyed local businesses all over the city, the many vacant storefronts are creating several pressure points: 

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  1. Depressed retail rent markets and vacancies may present an opportunity for new, more local retail and restaurant  ideas; 
  2. Efforts by local BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) and neighborhood associations to address the “ghost town” feel that multiple vacant storefronts will create; and 
  3. Landlords seeking tax relief, as their tenant base has disappeared.

Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights is an interesting microcosm for a retail study. It is only four blocks long, with a tourist attraction at one end and a civic center. It sits in the middle of an affluent residential historic district.

This former Starbucks location at 112 Montague St. has been vacant since 2012, when the outlet moved to a nearby location. Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

More than 1,380 unique respondents participated in the survey. A local merchant member of the BID generously contributed two $50 gift certificates to his restaurants as an incentive.

Some basic data emerged indicating a vital interest in the future of Montague Street: 

  1. The vast majority of respondents live in Brooklyn Heights, but between 9-12 percent live elsewhere but come to the Heights for work, school or to visit.
  2. Almost 95 percent of respondents report accessing Montague Street on foot.
  3. More than 60 percent of respondents would like to see Montague Street  prioritize pedestrians and bicycles, while almost 35 percent see access to Montague “perfect as is.” 
  4.  Regarding new businesses desired by respondents, a bookstore received the top spot with overwhelming (80 percent) support, followed by new restaurants/cafes. Significant numbers also would like to see other food establishments, like a butcher shop, a fishmonger and a bakery; and more modern retail, like a bike shop. 
  5. Age categories of respondents showed that half were in the 30-49 age bracket, with 34 percent being parents of children younger than 18.
  6. Respondents showed clear familiarity with Montague Street, as more than a third have lived in Heights for more than 20 years. Another 20 percent have lived in the Heights from 11 to 20 years.

The BHA believes that this consumer data is an important first step in understanding the demand side of the issue – and is hopeful that having more information on what neighborhood consumers want will prove useful to Montague Street landlords and business owners alike.  For more information, please contact [email protected].

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