Are Brooklyn Artist Communes a Thing of the Past?


One of the uber-Brooklyn real estate structures is the creative ‘commune’, where artists, performers and others pool their resources to build small arts communities. This archetype is dying out as real estate becomes much more expensive, building regulations are enforced and stratospheric residential values remove huge amounts of commercial space from the inventory.

While there are still some successful collective efforts, tenants such as these, as well as for what I call ‘undocumented’ event spaces (not strictly legal), are constantly challenged to find workable loft square-footage. With the city now enforcing our byzantine building code − for example the fire department shutting down many of the 4 a.m. licensed New Year’s gatherings this year at 2 a.m. − and the rapidly rising prices for industrial space, ‘hippie’ real estate is dying out. A sad trend, as seemingly under the radar collective and creative spaces have created much of the Brooklyn buzz, by entertaining the younger set and providing cutting edge performers with both audiences and venues. Au revoir, Shanghai Mermaid and House of Yes.

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Specialized real estate uses are increasingly hard to place − affordable (not high end) unlicensed work out space, artist studios with water lines, start-up 1,500 square foot manufacturing spaces and multi-purpose creative spaces with unpredictable income streams are all dinosaurs.

Yes, there is still warehouse rock and roll east of the BQE, groups of artists sharing lease costs and a shrinking pop-up nightclub scene, yet I fear they will be washed away by the rip tide of the 21st century market. What makes us (Brooklyn) popular (underground fun) can destroy us as well (enforcement agencies compelled to close spaces they have known about for years). Stop, smell the roses and go to those parties while you still can!