New Yorkers have likely heard the grumblings and groanings — New York City just isn’t what it used to be. It was once a land of opportunity — now it’s far too expensive and difficult for anyone to do anything but move on out.
But is that really the case?
Not as far as Industry City is concerned. This revolutionary locale for the development of industry is taking NYC — Brooklyn, to be specific — by storm.
A Bit Of History
This waterfront location, with its 6 million square feet of warehouse space wasn’t born of nothing. It’s thanks to an endeavor by Irving T. Bush back in 1895 that the groundwork for today’s Industry City was laid. His idea: create a huge space for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, then known as Bush Terminal. Located in what was, at the time, an inexpensive area of Brooklyn, the space quickly became ideal for retailers in nearby Manhattan.
Industry City thrived from the start, primarily because of how independent it was from the rest of the city. The original locale had its own internal police force, fire department and even rail network. At the peak of the Industrial Revolution nearly 25,000 workers found employ at Industry City, taking advantage of these services and creating what would be known as an empire for creation and innovation.
While its importance diminished in the post-World War II years, Industry City remained, continuously chugging away — albeit in the background — in New York’s industrial scene.
But, it was long overdue for a makeover.
Today’s Industry City: A Renewed Look at the Industrial Revolution
While Industry City has long remained an important staple of industry in New York, it wasn’t until new partnership took over in August 2013 that the property was repositioned for its industrial renaissance. An Industry City as it stood at the turn of the 19th century would not be of interest today, but with a carefully calculated rebirth, has forged renewed interest and industriousness.
“So what has changed?” says Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City. “First, people want to make things again.”
Thanks to developments in technology, allowing for the quick production of prototyping and strides towards innovating constantly and consistently, what Kimball calls an “innovation economy” has been born. The industries that comprise the innovation economy, art and design, film and TV, fashion, tech and food, are New York City’s fastest growing sectors. Industry City allows these industries the space to complete the entirety of their innovation process from start-to-finish in one facility.
“Perhaps just as important for these companies is that Industry City allows them to create their product alongside hundreds of other like-minded makers,” Kimball explains. “More and more, we see our tenants working with one another and growing their business through connection they’ve made down across the hall or in a neighboring building.”
Today’s Industry City remains firmly ensconced in innovation and manufacturing, though the smokestacks of yore are gone. Instead, Industry City is becoming part of Brooklyn’s landscape itself, creating a space that is opened to manufacturers, artisans and designers of all kinds and from many different sectors.
“We have created an eclectic community of innovation economy businesses that are making physical, digital or engineered products, as well as those that are part of the ecosystem that feeds innovation businesses, which includes artists,” Kimball says. “As the word about Industry City spreads, tenants are willingly coming to us because they want to be part of a unique community of makers.”
That community includes such companies as Alexandra Ferguson, a manufacturer of eco-friendly pillows and accessories, Car2Go, a car-sharing startup, Fodera Guitars, a guitar manufacturer, Karen’s Body Beautiful, a producer of organic hair and body products, and MakerBot, a 3D printer manufacturer.
While Industry City has opened its doors, in particular, to these artisans and manufacturers looking for space, it also seeks, with its prime location, to create a space that’s friendly to pedestrians as well. The ground floor and lower levels have been transformed into shops, showrooms, event spaces and courtyards, where events including summertime music festivals and vintage marketplaces for trendy shoppers, help bring locals out.
One of the main draws to Industry City on a daily basis is its unique food court, which unites some of the finest food producers of New York, including Blue Marble Ice Cream, Liddabit Sweets, Ninja Bubble Tea and Steve & Andy Organics.
This food court is just one of the ways that Industry City seeks to keep the local community involved and invested in the future of the space.
Tenants also receive complimentary recruitment services that focus on the workforce of south Brooklyn, allowing local job seekers to find employ close to home, with over 1500 new jobs since 2013. Says Andrew, “Hiring locally is obviously good for the surrounding community, and thus the right thing to do as a ‘good neighbor,’ but it’s also good for business. Studies have shown that retention rates of employees who live near where they work are greater than those who have longer commutes.”
Industry City also seeks to involve local students, through partnerships with local school districts to create internships and to host tours of the space for career days and workshops.
“Most recently, we hosted Sunset Park High School’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship in Jewelry Making program, in which students created their own business from the ground up and learned how to plan, budget, advertise, and make jewelry to become successful entrepreneurs,” says Kimball.
And if that wasn’t enough, Industry City is committed to sustainable and responsible manufacturing — perhaps as an answer to the past Industrial Revolution and its clouds of black smoke. Industry City divides itself decisively from this image, with commitments to reduce their carbon footprint, adapt existing buildings, and recycle all waste materials. To this end, in April 2014, Industry City committed to procuring 100% Green wind power for Buildings 1-10 of the complex.
For those who would worry about what an enormous development could do to the surrounding communities, let your worries halt here. Industry City had been sitting largely vacant for decades, and now has helped to create 1,500 jobs and attracted more than 100,000 visitors to the property in just over a year. This new foot traffic potentially help surrounding businesses as well, with curious possible customers passing by and maybe stopping it.
He has seen even more businesses opening in the surrounding area due to the renewal, not only of Industry City, but of the neighborhood in general, attracting more and more innovators every day.
The Future of Industry City
It’s perhaps no surprise that the people behind Industry City are always looking forward. They believe that the next big phase for this locale will be in upgrading the infrastructure for even more power and connectivity for current and future tenants.
And of course, Industry City hopes to continue to forge relationships with locals in the neighborhood. Visitors to Industry City can look forward to expansion of spaces like shops and the already vast food court. Events will be featured even more prominently and will be much more easily reachable thanks to expanded transportation options.
This is just the beginning for the new face of Industry City — who knows? The next innovator could be you.
By Emily Monaco
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