Being on the cutting-edge has its benefits, especially in real estate. Finding your way to an up-and-coming business hub can mean significant cost savings in office space, bolster your company’s brand, and may provide a competitive hiring advantage if you locate in close proximity to your potential workforce.
Brooklyn has become a well-established hub for the innovation economy for many of these reasons. While iconic companies such as Etsy and Huge have doubled down on their respective investments in the borough’s Tech Triangle—the clear epicenter of Brooklyn’s innovation economy—more and more startups moving to the borough are choosing to do so beyond the triangle’s general footprint. Brooklyn’s brand has long relied on its pioneering persona, but in a borough that’s already arrived, where is the next frontier for Brooklyn’s innovation economy?
A FEW FRONTIERS WORTH EXPLORING
Here are a few neighborhoods being talked about: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Sunset Park, and East New York. Each of these innovation economy frontiers boast different strengths and weaknesses.
Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick offer robust cultural amenities and rents significantly cheaper than Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Due to their burgeoning nightlife scenes and creative culture, these North Brooklyn neighborhoods are also home to much of the tech and creative talent—coders, designers, and business development staff—that powers not just Brooklyn’s startups, but New York City’s.
This is just one of the reasons that established companies and startups in the digital space have decided to locate in North Brooklyn; VICE, Kickstarter, Amazon, and Livestream are some of the most notable.
However, for companies looking to find a new home in one of these North Brooklyn hotspots, the search for space isn’t quite plug-and-play. “There aren’t many spaces that are ready to rock,” said Leah Archibald, executive director of Evergreen, a business services non-profit in the area.
For now, entrepreneurs wanting to locate in North Brooklyn may have to invest sweat equity into transforming their ideal location into their perfect home. As Chris Havens, a commercial real estate broker and expert, put it, “You can go into Manhattan and find an amazing space; in Brooklyn, you have to create it.”
The good news: more space is coming. Two Trees, the development firm largely credited with DUMBO’s growth as a tech hub, is slated to build nearly 500,000 square feet of office space in Williamsburg. Development plans by Heritage Equity Partners may also result in additional office space, and several other commercial developments are planned.
While North Brooklyn offers trendy nightlife but limited real estate availability, Sunset Park offers an abundance of attractive, available, and affordable real estate options for innovation economy companies.
“Sunset Park is desirable because of the high rate of underutilized space,” said David Meade, executive director of the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. “The neighborhood offers larger, more flexible spaces, where manufacturing, production, design, and office can all be integrated easily into a consolidated footprint for a single user.”
Indeed, significant investment in Industry City has created a noteworthy buzz, and Liberty View Industrial Plaza will soon be home to a 160,000 square foot fashion incubator run by Manufacture New York. Additionally, last summer, the City of New York announced a 100 million dollar investment to revitalize the publicly owned Brooklyn Army Terminal.
As New York City’s innovation economy continues to grow, so will demand for commercial space. Sunset Park is well positioned to continue to attract companies that lack the capital to purchase or invest in significant build-out, but desire open floor plans that can accommodate both creative and industrial uses. This is one of the reasons MakerBot decided to locate 55,000 square feet of production space at Industry City in 2013. These trends have also been witnessed in the fields of biotechnology, food manufacturing, and fashion, among others.
East New York
For companies that need expansive footprints for industrial uses, East New York is worth exploring. The neighborhood is truly a new frontier for Brooklyn’s innovation economy; little, if any, digital activity exists in the neighborhood. East New York’s competitive advantage manifests in the neighborhood’s real estate potential, offering some of the cheapest leasing rates in the city. The neighborhood is home to the 44 square block East New York Industrial Park, which hosts some of New York City’s last remaining heavy industrial manufacturers.
While the innovation economy has yet to penetrate the neighborhood in a meaningful way, East New York offers significant promise. The City of New York has targeted it for significant investment, and private sector dollars have begun to follow. Growth-stage companies in the maker space with large-scale space demands are likely to locate here in the coming years, especially those adverse to locating operations in New Jersey.
Parting Tip – Love Thy Neighbor
In New York City, anything new is likely supplanting something existing; Brooklyn is no different. This dynamic can lead to tension in communities. Newcomers to any neighborhood should be aware and thoughtful of the existing environment. Positively engaging the surrounding business and residential communities—through local hiring and local procurement, for example—is a surefire way to start building positive relationships. Local trade organizations may also be worth the minimal investment of an annual membership fee, as they often offer valuable assistance on matters such as hiring and access to incentives. They are also wholly integrated in their local communities, and can help you connect and collaborate with your new neighbors. Indeed, sometimes disruption is better suited to business plans.
The Bare Essentials
Interested in locating in one of these neighborhoods? Start with the following non-profit organizations:
Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick: East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation – Leah Archibald, Executive Director – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunset Park: Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation – David Meade, Executive Director – email@example.com
East New York: Business Outreach Center Network – Anthony O. Amiewalan, Industrial Account Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org
Borough-wide: Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce – Andrew Steininger, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff – email@example.com