Innovating Industry City

In a wildly ambitious and unprecedented proposal announced this week, Brooklyn’s Industry City, the massive, dilapidated industrial complex on Sunset Park’s waterfront, will begin its large-scale redevelopment.

A mind boggling 6-million square foot site of 6 buildings on a neglected stretch of southern Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal, Industry City’s manufacturing complex was purchased with a 50% stake by a collaboration of three developers, Angelo Gordon, Belvedere Capital and Jamestown Properties, in 2013. The $1 billion proposal, spanning 12 years, looks to convert the industrial site into a revolutionary mixed-use megaplex for manufacturing, retail, design studios, academic partnerings, research institutions and even a hotel.

The conceptual blueprint for Industry City comes from a previous venture of Jamestown Properties: the wildly-successful marketplace of food, culture and technology, Chelsea Market. Industry City plans to replicate the creative smorgasbord on a scale six times its size. Chelsea Market is the working model of the developers’ vision for the Sunset Park waterfront: emerging and thriving industries in the creative and technology sectors working side-by-side in a self-sustainable, incubating environment. The marketplace would provide vertical integration from inception to output: creative fields, from design, new-world manufacturing (eg: artisan, small batch food production and 3D printing) and more traditional production like accessories and retail, all cohabiting. This sweeping overhaul would also reach the infrastructure, which will be redesigned and redeveloped from the ground up.

Industry City’s behemoth vision is still just that. The proposal needs the go-ahead from Mayer de Blasio’s administration by approving a “special innovation zoning district”. This constitutes rezoning to allow for a unique mixed-space use that current zoning does not permit there. Andrew Kimball, executive at Jamestown and CEO of Industry City, explained how crucial de Blasio’s approval is, stating the redevelopment can’t move forward without it. In addition, the proposal will need $115 million for additional expenses such as infrastructure upgrading and on-site, integrated parking. Jamestown hopes to use job creation and growth as its main selling point.

In addition, the collaborating developers have requested for permission to build a hotel, a concept that has gotten a thumbs-up from CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Carlo Scissura, who believes a hotel could be an important component in transforming the image of Industry City and its surrounding environs. 

How aligned de Blasio's vision for manufacturing and industrial zones will be with this proposal is something of a mystery, as his administration has been vague about its intended use for these areas. Industrial and commercial advocates, as well as business owners, are frustrated with the administration’s evasiveness on its plans for the future of development. They fear the mayor’s lofty ambitions for the addition of 240,000 affordable and market-rate housing in 10 years will put industrial zones in further jeopardy. De Blasio promised to address this issue further in the coming term.

Even with the verdict out on the proposal’s approval, Industry City has seen new growth in its creative and tech sector by providing over $100 million in upgrades in the two years since Jamestown et al acquired it. 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot now has working space there, and designer Malia Mills moved their world headquarters from Midtown’s Garment District to the complex. Sports teams also have their eye on Industry City, with the Brooklyn Nets planning to open a truly spectacular training facility on-site. The industrial chic, spa-like space perfectly embodies Industry City’s vision of gritty industry fusing seamlessly with innovative technology and design.