The Manhattanization of Williamsburg
Josh Siegelman Oct. 9, 2013, 7 a.m.
Manhattan concepts and national tenants have finally realized what hipsters have known all along: Williamsburg is cool.
It’s not that operators didn’t notice Williamsburg before, but, as Manhattan became fully developed, these industrial plots across the river became attractive investment opportunities with minimal travel time to the main city (only one stop on the L). In their place, you’ll find new constructions like the Wythe Hotel and the sell-out Edge project on Kent Avenue, as well as the new Toll Brothers building that’s coming soon. In addition to the developments making way along the main corridors—including Bedford, Driggs, Wythe, Berry and Kent—the side streets have also become lively with new developments and exciting retail destinations for business owners who were priced out of the main thoroughfares but still want to maintain a presence in the area. The area always had the hip and cool factor, but it is now beginning to flourish with this wave of new residential developments and hotels creating a vibrant 24/7 market that’s ripe with retail opportunities.
Restaurants and dry users alike have taken notice of the changes and begun securing spaces along the main corridors, most notably Bedford Avenue. Recent examples can be seen across all industries from mega pharmacies like Duane Reade to popular apparel users such as Robert James. Many food operators, including Dos Toros, have already opened, while Juice Generation and the beloved Dunkin’ Donuts are coming soon. As you can imagine, as existing retail leases have come to term, landlords have drastically raised rents as high as $300 per square foot—a definite reflection of the recent uptick and co-tenancy. Rents have gotten to a point where mom-and-pop stores, as well as local Brooklyn chains, have been priced out of their own territory. A good example is Beacon’s Closet, a pioneer in the neighborhood in 2002 that has now been forced to move to Greenpoint because of the changing retail landscape in Williamsburg.
Despite some of the pushback from local residents, I predict that the hype will not only last but also continue to grow.