July 28, 2014

Brooklyn's Sunset Park Is Hefty Bet for Developers, New York City

Investors Want Neighborhood to Return to Thriving Industrial Area of Yesteryear...

The city and private developers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to create a thriving industrial area on the Sunset Park waterfront, a throwback to the days when workers streamed from nearby neighborhoods into factories that lined Brooklyn's shores.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration plans to pour $100 million into renovating 500,000 square feet of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the former U.S. naval-supply base the city has been transforming over the past three decades into warehouse and manufacturing space.

Jamestown Properties, Belvedere Capital and Angelo Gordon a year ago bought a 49% stake in Industry City, a 6 million-square-foot complex trying to emulate the success of Chelsea Market. They are leasing space to food manufacturers that have attached retail spaces, in the hope of creating a destination for neighborhood shoppers and eventually tourists.

And Marvin Schein, who owned a medical- and dental-supply company, and partner Sal Rusi have put about $80 million into renovating Liberty View Industrial Plaza. They plan to position the two 1916 buildings, developed as naval-supply centers during World War I, to attract technology companies and tenants priced out of the Garment District.

Sunset Park is an important bet for Mr. de Blasio's administration. As many of the city's faded industrial areas have been rezoned for residential development, the neighborhood has retained a core of massive buildings for commercial uses and a large immigrant workforce living nearby.

The initiative envisions a revitalized community where working-class residents pay rents they can afford, then walk to stable jobs generated by a blossoming small-manufacturing sector.

Making that vision a reality is more complicated.

After decades of neglect, roads in Sunset Park are filled with potholes, some sewer lines are aging and walking from the residential areas to the factories requires a nerve-racking trip across the Gowanus Expressway. Fixing all that will require significant investment.

Residents also complain about poor air quality and that they have little access to the neighborhood's 2.5-mile stretch of waterfront. A park that the Economic Development Corp. promised to create has been delayed by more than a year. It also has been scaled down from what the community hoped to see, including the elimination of a second entrance, children's playground and environmental center. The park is now set to open in about a month.

As more than a million square feet of new space comes online in the area, it could also be a test of whether the city's small-manufacturing sector is primed to become more than a niche part of the city's economy. While food manufacturing provided about 15,000 jobs in the city in 2012, a sector such as construction employs more than 110,000.

However, food manufacturing jobs have increased nearly 8% since 2008, according to a recent report from the city's Independent Budget Office. A number of types of manufacturing saw steep declines, such as apparel manufacturing, where jobs decreased more than 25%.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/articles/brooklyns-sunset-park-is-hefty-bet-for-developers-new-york-city-1406512061

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