Al Attara has owned his early-20th Century, seven-story office building on Flatbush Avenue for 30 years. Now he wants to share ownership with freelancers and small firms in the design, architecture and planning, media, and literary world. Collectively, he said they could pool their money to build a “green” addition 100 feet tall, “but we’ll go up as high as we can to take advantage of the southern exposure and wind.” Though a collective has always been his vision, up until two years ago Attara said his building was part of an urban renewal area, meaning it could be seized by the city at any time. Now, some tenants are ready to invest but the group is looking for more partners.
With Brooklyn gaining creative freelancers faster than any borough at 33 percent over five years, and more small creative firms moving here, Attara’s vision seems like an attractive option for those with capital. Currently, a large desk and free run of the building’s many cavernous, curio-filled rooms runs $400 per month. The problem is “creatives,” stereotypically bad with money and more concerned with self-fulfillment than financial gain, are competing for space in a profit-driven society. Which is why Attara said forming a collective is necessary for survival – it’s the only protection from getting the boot.
Downtown Brooklyn, with scores of vacant office space, has struggled to identify with the creative class, which along with big business, like yin and yang, is the city’s lifeblood. But Bob Hebron of Ingram & Hebron Realty said Downtown is “too boring” and “too corporate” for creative taste; it’s more suited to the tie and briefcase set. Attara said it’s too expensive. “People who are from the creative class want to be able to reconstruct their own spaces … they don’t need the extravagance of a Class A or a Class B or even a Class C building,” he said. “The price you have to pay for space is too high, because most of them don’t just need a desk, they need a place to lay out their work and fabricate.” Not everybody agrees: Several brokers said Two Trees Management’s turn-key office space has been hugely successful with creative firms, though they get a discount, and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership president Joe Chan remains optimistic that his domain will become the next DUMBO.
Creatives Flock to Bklyn, But Are They Endangered?[Brownstoner]
Partnership Working To Revitalize Downtown Brooklyn[NY Sun]