Our masked correspondent has decided to remove his mask. Chris Havens, director of commercial real estate at Aptsandlofts.com, has been informing us about Brooklyn’s commercial market and will continue to write the monthly column.
This month he takes a look at Brooklyn Bridge Park commercial space – what’s happening and what works.
Now that the Request for Proposal process for the Empire Stores warehouse on Water Street is well underway, a renewed focus on retail in the park is overdue. The Empire could bring over 100,000 SF of retail to the northern end of the park, counting the ground floor, the roof and potential second floor space. What will work best there? A large restaurant-catering-event space on the roof? Multiple restaurants on the ground? Chelsea Market? Chain retail?
Looking at the park’s experiences thus far yields some lessons and concerns. Use restrictions on One Brooklyn Bridge Park have made leasing there slow, as has the long, market-related apartment sales period. Restrictions are a drag on the market. The location — facing outward towards harbor with limited foot traffic — hasn’t helped either. Two good local services, one for pets and a wine store, are in place. Two 4,500 square foot restaurant corners are available as is a huge supermarket space of 35,000 square feet. The restaurant spaces are big for even central DUMBO, where owners have struggled to fill large spaces productively. Restaurant operators have expressed concerns about conducting business in a seasonal location where an upscale operation is expected to be consistent with a first rate building and park. And how about services for children?
The most successful tenants are those with Brooklyn foodie cred, I am told. The park is an outstanding platform for these businesses. I suspect the waterfront is not the best place for new ideas as a significant number of summer visitors (90,000 a weekend last year) are tourists. Given the seasonal nature of the location, well-known, creative, high-quality ‘quick food’ may be best. Fortunately, the wine bar is coming back. Don’t expect high end dining out on the piers for these reasons.
Of course, the new hotel with retail on Furman, the Empire Stores retail, entertainment and office space as well as St. Ann’s Warehouse in the historic Tobacco Warehouse will bring tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of year-round visitors, changing the current dynamic in the park. Yet it remains to be seen what mix of retail will work in the stores. A flexible ground-floor concept may be at once the most creative and the safest choice.