Brooklyn Looks to Free Up Office Space for Tech and Media


Brooklyn is readying for a growth in its tech and media workforce by presenting new office space.
Brooklyn is readying for growth in its tech and media workforce by presenting new office space.

With technology and media companies looking to Brooklyn for space to house their startup endeavors, the borough finds itself needing more square footage of office product. Those at the helm of Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle are thinking ahead to bring new options online and keep entrepreneurs on the right side of the river.

A study released in November by Urbanomics – commissioned by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Dumbo Improvement District and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. – shows that about 523 firms are operating in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle—downtown, Dumbo and the Navy Yard. That figure is expected to rise to 639 by 2015. 77 percent of the firms say that more than half of their employees live in the borough.

As these businesses – which currently employ almost 10,000 workers – expand, where will they go? The Tech Triangle initiative is working to ready landlords for the expected growth, said Adam Lubinsky, managing principal with WXY Architecture + Urban Design, a firm tapped to mastermind the overall push to make Brooklyn more attractive to technology and media businesses.

“There’s a huge amount of space that’s coming online in the Navy Yard,” Mr. Lubinsky said. “Then we’re also looking at spaces that are warehouse space, storage space in the area—really looking at what we call underutilized space that could be put into play.”

Parts of downtown and along Flushing Avenue are on the list of potential office product the initiative is considering as expansion territory. Additionally, the Jehovah’s Witnesses-owned buildings in Dumbo between Jay and Adams Streets, Mr. Lubinsky said. “They may, at some point, decide to do something with those properties,” he said.

Technology and media firms have somewhat unique requirements, as opposed to other companies.

“It’s not your traditional Class A building space requirement,” Mr. Lubinsky explained. “A lot of them like to bring bicycles or dogs up to their buildings so some of it is working with building management to have a different set of protocols. But in terms of the space itself—higher ceilings, a lot of light, open plans. Meeting space is definitely a big deal and having large and small meeting space tends to be very flexible for firms that are doing a lot of talking with potential clients, potential funders.”

Downtown has large floor plate options but smaller ones will need to be found, said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership president, Tucker Reed. “We have a lot of upper floor space above our retail corridors on the Fulton Mall, Livingston Street, places like that, that have just sat vacant because the owners’ emphasis has been on retail development. Reclaiming some of those spaces for commercial office uses, particularly those smaller footprints, that product is really missing from down here,” he said.

Some areas just outside of the Navy Yard, Dumbo and Downton regions that could house new office tenants include Flatbush and the Barclay Center. The Flushing Avenue corridor – across the street from Navy Yard – is also an option. “There’s a whole lot of unutilized space,” Mr. Lubinsky said. “Some of it is utilized but some of it, obviously, could be better utilized in terms of people working in the buildings, as opposed to storage.”

The initiative is formulating incentives for landlords to bring new product online and is not disclosing what it has up its sleeve just yet, he said. “That’s a critical piece of our work in the next two months.”