By Stephen Witt
Sometimes you can indeed make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
The 12 vacant stores along Willoughby Street between Bridge and Duffield streets will soon have works of art painted on or in their windows.
The MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID) initiative, dubbed “Willoughby Windows,” will involve a public art project that will be launched next month.
“This is a way of using vacant store windows until such time that there is a more permanent solution or project there,” said MetroTech BID Executive Director Michael Weiss.
MetroTech BID officials said the two property owners, United American Land and Avalon Development, have okayed the plan and are awaiting artist renderings to move ahead with the project.
The MetroTech BID encompasses an area from Tillary Street on the north almost to the Fulton Mall on the south, and from Adams Street on the west to Flatbush Avenue on the east.
Weiss said the storefront vacancy rate is roughly five percent of the about 165 retail storefronts and service providers in MetroTech, excluding the 12 vacant storefronts along Willoughby Street.
Several of these storefronts have signs on them indicating where the business has moved in the area.Others remain empty with no signs.
The “Willoughby Windows” initiative is actually one of two art projects coming to the Downtown Brooklyn area. The other is being launched this fall and is called “City Walls.”
This initiative will see the MetroTech BID working with Pratt Institute on creating art installations for various construction fences in the downtown area.
The three sites include the City Point (former Albee Square Mall) construction site, where only the DeKalb and Willoughby sides will be decorated; the transit construction site at Willoughby and Jay Streets; and the Stahl Real Estate construction site at 384-394 Bridge Street between Willoughby Street and the Fulton Mall.
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan said utilizing local artists during the time before developments take shape makes sense.
“These two initiatives are an incredibly creative and innovative approach that leverages the talent of the Brooklyn artistic community to brighten a landscape in transition and activate a portion of Willoughby Street,” he said.