Greenpoint Gazette

EDITORIAL: William Harvey on The Creative Economic Zone


With the encouragement of friends and neighbors, I have been talking to anyone I can about establishing a North Brooklyn Creative Economy Zone to help ensure a sustainable vibrant local economy in North Brooklyn.

North Brooklyn is a magnet for the talented people and diverse community that every city in the world is trying to attract, and has been so for some time. The best, newest and most creative businesses (both large and small), cultural organizations, artisans, musicians and entrepreneurs are eager to join the area’s legacy businesses and long-time residents.

But there is a conflicting process at work; as North Brooklyn is planned now, over the next decade, the actual amount of mixed-use commercial space will dramatically decrease. As the demand for above street level non-retail commercial space goes up, new development in our area will be predominantly residential without any mixed-use space for the new creative economy. And instead of continuing to develop as a vibrant cultural and economic engine, the new North Brooklyn will effectively become an inner ring suburb [and be economically consumptive rather than generative].

It is in the long-term economic and cultural interest of North Brooklyn and the city that adequate mixed-use space be available for new creative economy enterprises, and that they be integrated into the fabric of our neighborhoods. The commuter model is antiquated. In this century many people prefer to live and work in close proximity even though virtualized “workplaces” may be dispersed globally.

To build more mixed-use space and thus help grow a new creative economy, we need to allow and encourage developers to integrate space for creativity and innovation in new developments. Mixed-use space should also alleviate some of the market pressures on existing real estate and help ensure that legacy businesses and industry is not displaced as the local economy grows and diversifies.

If a significant amount of mixed-use/office type space is built into new development, new economy businesses such as co-working spaces, incubators, artisanal studios, production companies, music related businesses, start-ups, small and large-scale tech businesses, production offices, will locate here. It’s kind of a “duh” moment, but if mixed-use space needed for the new economy isn’t here – the new economy won’t be here.

Establishing a North Brooklyn Creative Economy Zone will help enhance the positive forces in play. Revising planning, zoning and usage to accommodate mixed-use above street level commercial space is a project that requires collaboration between residents, business owners, developers and city and state elected officials.

If we take remedial actions now, there are still tremendous opportunities for North Brooklyn, but the window of opportunity is closing.

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