Will Gowanus Be the Next DUMBO?

Two Trees, this company’s landlord, invented DUMBO, turning a neighborhood of warehouses and artists into a commutertown full of lofts converted into office space, attracting (and often comping the rent for) media and tech firms as well as bookstores, delis, chocolatiers, galleries, cafes, restaurants and the rest. Now, two former employees hope to begin the DUMBOfication of Gowanus, a neighborhood similarly starting to shed its industrial past for something more contemporary-commercial.

The developers bought two large, unused buildings on Third Street, the Daily News reports, which they hope to turn into the sort of loft-retail combos that vivified blocks like Front Street in that neighborhood down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass. The idea is boutique office space on top, stores down below. “Shops could range from a bespoke tailor or bread bakery to a Restoration Hardware or J. Crew Liquor Store—not full-scale mall shops, but concept stores for the national brands,” the Daily News reports.

Many Gowanus locals surely won’t be keen on the concept, those who fought and lost against the Whole Foods coming soon right up the block, worrying that the arrival of the super-supermarket would bring in the sorts of people that’d drive out the remaining industry and artists who make Gowanus what it is—and need the zoning, large spaces and relatively reasonable rents the neighborhood still affords and which are otherwise rapidly disappearing from the borough. (Not unlike the people who once coined the name DUMBO for their neighborhood, hoping it was so silly it would keep developers away.) Their concerns aren’t unfounded: “The Third Avenue corridor has exploded with Whole Foods,” a real-estate agent told Crain’s earlier this fall, with parcels all over the neighborhood starting to fetch millions of dollars from developers, while new businesses like hotels, Dinosaur BBQ and long-delayed shuffleboard bar the Royal Palms start to open to cater to the newcomers.

DUMBO has a peculiar geography, bordered by water, sliced up by bridges and highways, cut-off by Navy Yards, which gives it a unique character but limited space and reach. Gowanus, on the other hand, is bordered by two long-ago gentrified neighborhoods—Park Slope and Carroll Gardens—which could easily absorb the no-man’s land in the middle as a link. You’re already seeing it creep down to Third Avenue. You’re already starting to see it creep up to parts of Bond Street. Will our kids one day work in offices high above the canal, giggling as we tell them that all this used to be a fetid pollution zone?

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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