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Short history of Brooklyn's Commercial Real Estate Market

In 1732, the British Debt Recovery Act was passed and changed the United States Commercial Real Estate community forever. This act allowed British merchants to buy and own more than just their living property, and brought up the idea that land can be used instead of money.  By the 19th century, Brooklyn’s population, commercial, industrial and residential development had reached its peak, with the majority of the territory being urbanized. 

Years later, during the 20th century, real estate benefitted the States drastically. During this time, the first realty company was created (The National Association of Realtors).  The National Association of Realtors was first founded as the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges on May 12, 1908 in Chicago. It originally had 120 members, 19 boards and one State Association, which of course all grew as time went on. The main goal this association hoped to accomplish was “to unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.”

Brooklyn was one of the greatest shopping locations, filled with both shops and residents. There were two attempts at urban renewal; one in the 50s/60s and one in the 80s/90s. The reason they were just attempts, and not successes was because of people like Jane Jacobs. At the time of the 50s/60s renewal, Jane was a 45 year old woman, working as editor of Architectural Forum. She believed that the renewal was not beneficial, rather it will destroy the city. On February 20, 1961, Mayor Robert Wagner announced that Jane’s area was going to be urbanized.   

On February 25th, a Saturday night, 300 people met in St. Luke’s School at Hudson and Christopher Sts to put together the committee that would end up saving their city. Their aim was to completely get rid of the urbanizing project and keep their city intact. Within that week, children were creating and giving out posters and petitions,  while their parents informed people in cafes and other shops. On March 21, Manhattan Borough President, Edward Dudley, examined homes and stated that this neighborhood was not filled with “slum dwellers”. 

On August 17, the mayor stated that no urban renewal can be done to this city because it would ruin the “village traditions”. He later asked the committee to agree to the “blighted” area so that the renewal does not end up happening to them, but Jane did not want to accept these terms. Because of her rejection, on October 18, the Planning Commission said the urban renewal can be done in their city.  

Jane then called a press conference to show the proof that there was a prearranged deal to urbanize their city. She had the resume of a man named Barry Benape that had written on it that he prepared sketches for the renewal. Barry’s papers were typed on the same typewriter that printed petitions that were pro the renewal, dated in October 1960; before the renewal plans were even publicized.  Barry tried to play it off as a typo, and stated that it was actually created in 1961. Days before his reelection, the mayor stated he was very against urbanizing their city, so the Housing and Redevelopment Board got rid of it for good. 

As time went on, Commercial Realty helped the economy grow and prosper. By the 21st century, the real estate world went digital, making it even easier for realtors and spaces to be found. Commercial realtors know that in order to be successful, they have to give it their all before they see success; and that no matter the time or place, when commercial realty is the topic, the community is the main focus. Later on, in 2004, there was a Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning. 

The Downtown Brooklyn Rezoning changed the future of both Downtown       Brooklyn and Brooklyn for the better. The idea of the Rezoning was that over 10 years, the area would reach 4.6 million square feet of office space, 850,000 square feet of retail, and 1,000 units of houses.  In the end, the Rezoning only ended up using 1.3 million square feet for commercial space, and used 9.8 million square feet for residential lots.

Even so, this Rezoning was very successful, adding both private and public funding to the Downtown Brooklyn area, creating the society that we live in today. An analysis conducted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership in 2015 stated that this Rezoning brought $400 million in public funding and $4 billion in private investments. It created 6,700 new apartments and 530 houses that were more affordable than others. As time passed, many commercial lots opened in Downtown Brooklyn. One off those lots was a 420,000 square foot office-tower created for development at 420 Albee Square.  

Because of the Rezoning, Downtown Brooklyn is thriving with business and is a great commercial realty location. Per the rezoning and the location of Downtown Brooklyn, it became the third largest business district of NYC. Downtown Brooklyn was also involved in the development of new condominium towers, office conversions, and townhouses such as BKLYN Air and The Brooklyner Apartments;  leading to population growth. Because of the drastic residential growth, more income was brought to the area, which led to more luxurious services around there, such as fancier restaurants and better schools.

As of 2010, the Downtown Brooklyn district had 2.6 million residents. Because of the ongoing growth of residents, from 2010 to 2013, a 1,200 square foot, three bedroom apartment raised its selling prices from $600,000 to $900,000. Apartment rentals also raised their prices drastically; a $2,666 apartment in 2010 was raised to $3,309 a month in 2013.

Downtown Brooklyn is a very popular location because there are 13 subways that go through it, making it very easy for the public to commute. Some of the stations are: Borough Hall, York Street Subway Station, High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station, Jay St. Metro-Tech Subway Station, Hoyt St, Bergen St Station, Jay Street Metro Tech, High Street Metro Station and Clark Street Subway Station. 

 Since the population grew annually, more and more groceries and schools opened. By the end of 2013, there were schools throughout Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene.  

Presently, more and more apartments are being built in the Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene and Vinegar Hill areas.  The New York City Housing Authority does not have enough land to cover all the residents in the city, so they plan on converting empty parking lots, community centers and playgrounds into apartments. Because of all of this, 2.9 million more square feet are going on the market in Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn.

DUMBO, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, was originally a place for ferries to dock. In the 20th century, it was bought by David Walentas, the owner of Two Tree Management, who turned DUMBO into the residential and commercial community we know it as today. When he first started developing it, it became the main place for art galleries, then later on became the center for technology startups. At that time, it was known as Rapailie, Olympia, and Walentasville. Because of this, DUMBO became Brooklyn’s most expensive neighborhood, being that it was nicknamed “the center of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle”. 

In the 1890’s, DUMBO was mainly a manufacturing neighborhood; where machinery and the cardboard box were created. Because of the popularity of the cardboard box, the DUMBO neighborhood was called Gairsville, after Robert Gair, the creator of the cardboard box.

While NYC was being deindustrialized, DUMBO became the main residential part of the city. The residents of that time decided to call it DUMBO because they believed this title would keep others away. Towards the end of the 20th century, Manhattan properties became more expensive, and DUMBO was improving drastically. It wasn’t properly known as DUMBO until 1997, and mainly catered to artists. Even so, there were still many AC repairs and auto shops; and because of its industrial past, DUMBO did not have one laundromat, coffee shop, or bookstore in sight at the time.

Overall, it took Brooklyn a long time to get to where it is today. There was a rezoning, there were almost two urban renewals, ferry docks were turned into apartments and shops and areas that once didn’t have residents soon became the third largest business district in NYC. All these little steps helped lead Brooklyn to become the thriving city it is known as today, the place that we now call home.

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