Ikea Leads a Retail Renaissance

In the Sun, Noel Caban (a commercial real estate broker, natch) thinks that Ikea’s Brooklyn store is a harbinger of a retail renaissance for our Borough. Next up in Mr. Caban’s rose-tinted Brooklyn of tomorrow? BJ’s Wholesale.

Never mind that Ikea is as much about Manhattan as it is about Brooklyn (they’re subsidizing their own ferry service for Manhattanites; Brooklynites get an extra stop on the B61). Never mind that Brooklyn has been experiencing a grass-roots renaissance for some time now. Its all about big retail now. Let’s take a closer look at the Sun’s “evidence” for all this:

  • “Later this year, Trader Joe’s will open in the former Independence Savings Bank building at the corner of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue.” It was supposed to be open by now, and given the pace of construction, “later this year” is not a mortal lock.
  • “In 2009, Brooklyn’s long-awaited Whole Foods Market is scheduled to open…” Emphasis on scheduled. If TJ’s manages to open before 2011, they’re unlikely to much competition from their Gowanus neighbor.
  • “Demolition work has already begun… at the Fulton Street Mall to make way for City Point… The complex will have more than 500,000 square feet of retail space” Timeline-wise, this project is behind Whole Foods. Let’s not hold our breath here, either.
  • “The growth of retail into urban centers is part of a national trend… Marc Freud (another commercial real estate flack) says that ‘with the enormous interest in ‘green transportation,’ whether it be walking or cycling, Brooklyn and Queens downtown retail marketplaces are becoming the destination shopping meccas for consumers hard hit by soaring gasoline prices. It is becoming a much better economic choice to hop on the subway and do some shopping than to steer your car to the mall in New Jersey or Westchester.’” For those not riding the G train, and thus able to take a subway into Manhattan, this will be less than life-changing news.
  • “Another speculator retail location is the 33,000 square feet of retail space on three levels available at the newly renovated One Hanson Place…” Which has been on the market now for three-plus years.

Look – its great that Brooklyn is attracting a really healthy range of retailers (which is clear once you get past the PR hype in the article). This “retail renaissance” is not just focused on Downtown and high-end retailers, it includes Gateway Center in East New York with over 600,000 square feet of occupied retail space. But instead of trying to turn Brooklyn into a mecca for commercial brokers, why not focus on the thousands of small retailers that are the real economic engines in many neighborhoods. And its not just the gentrifying Franklin Streets of the borough, its also the Manhattan Avenues.