Yet the old Domino Sugar Factory was purchased by the developer Two Trees from CPC Resources last October for $185 million, following months of messy legal disputes between Two Trees, CPC and the Katan Group, which bought the 11-acre waterfront property for $55 million in 2005. Two Trees has not finalized all its plans for the site, and is “in dialogue” about responsible development with locals. But the former sugar refinery is likely to introduce around 2,000 new units of residential housing.
“The Domino project is comparable, though not on the same scale, to Hudson Yards,” Mr. Bailey said. “If you take the size of Manhattan and you shrink it to Williamsburg, it will have a similar impact.”
Asked to make another comparison between Williamsburg and the Manhattan neighborhood it might most closely resemble in five years, Mr. Bailey shied away from labeling it the next Meatpacking District or Lower East Side. But he did say that one indicator of the neighborhood’s directional shift was the opening of a Tribeca Pediatrics at 212 Berry Street. “It shows that there are affluent families in the area that need services,” Mr. Bailey said. “You look to neighborhoods like Tribeca, where you have strollers, nannies and affluent parents who work in the city. Wiliamsburg has a Tribeca and an Upper West Side feeling in that way.”
How long might it be before a large national retailer (other than Whole Foods) moves into what was until recently the city’s best-known alternative district? “I think you could see medium-sized box stores—10,000 to 20,000 square feet—move in within six months or a year,” Mr. Bailey said.
But don’t shed an ironic tear for the lost hip soul of Williamsburg just yet. Mr. Bailey added that there “is interest, but also trepidation” from big-box stores when it comes to waters untested by national retail behemoths like Marshall’s, K-Mart or Target.
Large-format stores also have to contend with the stubborn local indie ethos as they inevitably circle the neighborhood and its vigilant community board members, whose idiosyncrasies they relish even as they attempt to monetize them.
“It’s all about brand identification,” Mr. Bailey said. “Like with SoulCycle—our brand identifies with Williamsburg and we want to be part of the Williamsburg brand. Let me identify with cool Williamsburg, which is now known nationally, if not worldwide, as the hippest place.”