The long — and as yet unfulfilled — hope for a lively Downtown Brooklyn took a huge step forward this week when the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership called on the city to put stores in the ground floor of the dour Municipal Building at the busy corner of Court and Joralemon streets.
By calling the corner “dead space” in our Page 1 article this week, Partnership President Joe Chan has done more than show support for an underutilized corner of an under-retailed part of Brooklyn. He also sent a message — a long-overdue one — to real-estate developers who have ignored what is the most-basic rule of development in a highly populated, well-trafficked area: make sure there is ground-floor retail.
It was the violation of this common-sense rule that led to the “dead space” at Bruce Ratner’s Metrotech complex between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension.
It’s not that Ratner didn’t build storefronts into his office towers there. He did. But he’s refused to rent much of the space for retail use — and has even replaced retail tenants to make room for more office space.
As a result, the Metrotech campus — which to this day is cited as a model by our Ratner-loving elected officials — is a walled-in fortress that mocks what a Downtown should be. After business hours, when Ratner’s office workers go home, Metrotech becomes barren. And even during the day, when those workers get a break and could go shopping or grab lunch, the sterile campus actually encourages them to stay put in their buildings or leave the campus entirely.
Chan’s call for retail at the Municipal Building must be seen as a wake-up call to the developers who are building skyscrapers on Flatbush Avenue — itself an almost nonstop dead zone from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the Manhattan Bridge. The only way to realize the city’s stated dream of a new — and vibrant — Downtown corridor is if each and every one of those buildings has ample ground-floor retail.
If Chan’s vision takes hold, someday pedestrians will stroll and browse shops along a newly revitalized Flatbush Avenue and at the current dead zone at Joralemon and Court.
We’re pleased that someone with a vision — and the potential to shake up City Hall — shares our view.