Brooklyn – some great stuff…

Day three of my study tour in New York took us to Brooklyn. The weather wasn’t kind to us but we saw two major projects.

The meeting space at Industry City

The meeting space at Industry City

The first was Industry City – a six-million square foot collection of industrial buildings on a 30 acre site – close to the Brooklyn waterfront. For over 30 years the site had been left to rot away – physically and financially. Any tenant would do. Buildings were patched up.

The a group (‘bunch’ here) of private investors acquired the freehold. They adopted a different approach. The thought was to accommodate, support, nurture and grow businesses in the ‘innovation economy’ principally. They started to replace windows ( 9,000 so far – 18,000 to go!) and create cool spaces. The buzzword was ‘creating activation’ – or bringing life back.

This sounds like a good news story – and it is in part. But the real lesson learned was that this is a very long term project. They have a 25 year plan. By their own admission they are not there yet. They are 50% full – and rents are still modest by New York standard.

I though the building and spaces were cool. The industrial feel is quite inspiring and goes back to a view that the innovators and  futurologists don’t want our sterile, modern, clean, tidy offices!

Our second visit of the day put us further towards the waterfront – at Brooklyn Bridge Park. This was a ship terminal in the 1980’s and after closing fell into dereliction. But the land has been reclaimed and another long term project is underway. The Trustees have created a new place – which is essentially about ‘recreation’.

This 1½ mile stretch of ‘park’ has one of the most iconic views in the world – downtown Manhattan. Behind it lies the aspirational (and expensive) neighbourhood of Brooklyn Heights. A place to enjoy the views has been created – but also to ‘play’ There are basketball courts, soccer pitches (football to you and me), Rollerskating areas, BBQ pits and miles of paths.

Again what struck me was the very long term view taken – they have a 50 year plan – in their case to replace the pier supports – 12,000 of them.

Sometimes the way in which these projects will only work is by accepting that it is not all ‘jam today’. Some of it has to come tomorrow…

Leave a Reply