Sep 17, 2014
RIP Everything: or Why Is This Williamsburg Real Estate Deal Making Us So Sad?
We know, we know: with the passing of another day comes another Brooklyn real estate deal that will make us say (sometimes with an accompanying whimper), “What? ___ is closing?!” This is the Brooklyn we live in now. This is the Brooklyn we’ve lived in for awhile. And yet we still haven’t allowed ourselves to become fully nihilistic about the prospects of this borough. We live here, after all; we’re invested in keeping it, to some degree, a borough of neighborhoods, of communities, of homes. And there are always some positive signs; every time someone doesn’t sell to developers, it’s like a Brooklyn angel (pigeon) gets its wings (doesn’t get hit by a car). But the positive signs have seemed more and more rare lately, as news about the construction of ultra-luxurious condos and sky-scraping residential towers have become the new normal and developers unironically reference themselves as “colonizers” in order to attract buyers has proliferated. What we’re trying to say is, it’s been hard not to feel defeated, it’s been hard not to admit that the battle was over years ago, that we were just too dumb not to notice that everything still standing was going to get knocked down sooner or later, and replaced with a Walgreens or a Chase bank. But we persisted in being almost Pollyanna-ish in our hope that there would be an endpoint to some of this development and that not everything would be destroyed. Well, as of about 3:30pm today, the Pollyanna in us has died. Our hope is gone.
All of which is to say, it was about an hour ago that we read about the purchase of a huge block of property on N. 3rd Street in Williamsburg by Waterbridge Capital, an investment group headed by Joel Schreiber. The property has been sold for $100 million, and currently houses beloved restaurant Egg, beloved chocolate factory Mast Brothers, and beloved beer garden Radegast. The Real Deal reports that all these businesses, “will be repositioned over time.” That’s a lot of beloved things! All of which have defined a certain type of Williamsburg sensibility (one often parodied) that already felt, quite frankly, post-gentrification. Which, for whatever sentimental reason (misplaced or otherwise), actually makes this feel just as bad as when other, longer-term businesses have shut down in favor of the building of condos and chain doughnut places and drug stores. Here’s the thing, we guess: there was a part of us that didn’t feel that artisanal chocolate makers were just something to laugh at. Yes! We know! Silly, still-slightly capitalist us! There was a part of us that thought, yes, it’s terrible when mom-and-pop places get pushed out, and it’s unconscionable that rents have risen as dramatically as they have, but at least many of the shops and restaurants that have moved in are not owned by conglomerates, and still have an ethos that we can get behind. Well, ha. Jokes on us. Because now even the most successful of those places have no hopes in hell of surviving a terrain where square feet of space are going for $1,ooo a pop, and all anyone cares about is attracting the kind of people who can be lured to a neighborhood by the promise of luxury living with rooftop pools and proximity to an Urban Outfitters.
In the words of our editor-in-chief, who was not surprised by this news one little bit, and who is a big fan of chocolate and beards: “We all knew that the coming of Duane Reade was the apocalypse. And it was.”
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen
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