Before the artisanal ice cream shop, “eco-chic” gourmet food purveyor, and the 3D-printing lab moved into Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the massive industrial complex was a hardscrabble emblem of the borough’s old working waterfront. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the six-million-square-foot complex, first known as Bush Terminal, was described as an “industrial city within a city.”
As the trajectory of manufacturing changed course, so did Industry City. Today, the halls of the once bustling “city within a city” are quiet, occupied by a few light manufacturers, small companies, and food suppliers that have set up shop over the last year or so. The recent activity in the building—850,000 square feet of the property have been leased—was spurred by a $100 million investment in 2013 by the team behind Chelsea Market: Jamestown Properties, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo, and Gordon & Co.
Now, the development team has announced plans to pour an additional $890 million into the complex, turning it into a so-called “innovation hub,” creating more than 13,000 on-site jobs over the next 12 years. To bring the century-old buildings back to life, the development team will replace 18,000 windows, 144 elevators, and spend $30 million in electrical upgrades. There will also be new raised sidewalks at the complex, and a walkway that runs through and between all of the buildings.
When complete, two-thirds of Industry City will be geared toward “innovation,” while the rest of the complex would house academic institutions, warehouse facilities, and retail. There are also plans for a hotel and a significant new surface level parking lot at the site.
As the plan has been rolled out, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball and his team have been touting their plans to hire locally, create an on-site employment center, and offer technology training. The plan could help ease concerns that the $1 billion project, with its high-end stores and companies, would not benefit Sunset Park’s working-class community. Crain’s, for example, dubbed the Industry City overhaul a “hipster mega-project.”
Kimball dismissed this characterization. “It is an amazing time for New York in the sense that people care about making things, a lot of those people tend to be young, and if you want to call all young people hipsters, that is a pretty easy thing to do,” he said. Kimball reiterated that he is working closely with local partners to get the community involved and hired at Industry City, where jobs, he said, will pay significantly more than typical service sector positions.
The plan is being privately funded, but the developers are looking for over $100 million in public funds for infrastructure and transportation upgrades, including new bike lanes. Kimball also wants the city to invest in public realm improvements underneath the Gowanus Expressway, which separates Industry City from much of Sunset Park.
For the massive project to move forward, the site—which is still zoned for heavy manufacturing—must go before a public review process and receive a zoning change from the de Blasio administration to allow for certain commercial uses.