In Parts of Williamsburg, an Epidemic of Empty Storefronts

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Just a couple of weeks after Grand St. hosted its own Restaurant Week, Bedford + Bowery brings up an interesting issue, the apparent proliferation of empty, unused storefronts on one of Williamsburg’s biggest main drags. Can’t say we generally see too many trend pieces about under-used North Brooklyn real estate in 2014.

Mostly, this seems to be concentrated on the stretch of Grand east of the BQE, and the article notes “at least 16 shuttered storefronts line the six-block stretch along Grand from Union to Bushwick Avenue.” We’d also add to the pile the former home of Second Stop on nearby Lorimer, which has been sitting vacant for months (proposed new tenants Blind Barber have faced a lot of neighborhood backlash), and mediocre 24-hour falafel spot Manna, which has been “closed for renovations” for ages now (to them, we say good riddance).

So what gives here? Since when was there any kind of slowdown anywhere in the vicinity of Williamsburg, especially as large developments go in at 774 Grand and 456 Grand? Well, the landlords in question are apparently picky (“They’ll say: ‘Are these people cool or not? Are these solid people?'” said realtor Patrick Mallilo of the area’s small business owners), and they’re often holding out for something that isn’t yet another bar or restaurant. “That will affect the rents of the apartments above… and then you’re open late at night, and you don’t know what kind of people are coming in and out all night long,” Malilo explained.

One woman who works in local vintage store Grand St. Bakery said, “The popularity of Bedford Avenue is starting to spread toward East Williamsburg and to Grand,” but we suppose it’s possible not every neighborhood wants as high a bars-to-residents ratio as the one on Bedford Ave. In fact, that might be one of the most sensible things we’ve heard about Brooklyn real estate in ages.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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