Buildings of Brooklyn: Sunset Park

Home Brooklyn Life Buildings of Brooklyn: Sunset Park
220 36th St. (Elisabeth Gawthrop / The Brooklyn Ink)
220 36th St. (Elisabeth Gawthrop / The Brooklyn Ink)

The building at 220 36th St. in Sunset Park, a combination warehouse, studio, office, and retail space, has seen its market value skyrocket in the last five years. Built of light-colored stone with massive windows and green-painted trim, the structure is one of 16 buildings in the surrounding blocks that make up Industry City — a complex that hosts a variety of startups, studios, and small businesses, as well as a few offices for larger companies.

Originally a waterfront shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing facility, the project was built by businessman Irving Bush in the early 20th century. Known as Bush Terminal until the 1980s, the complex employed 25,000 workers at its peak. The 1970s and ‘80s saw a downturn for the buildings and its surroundings, with reports of gang activity dominating the area.

Since the 1990s, and especially in the last five or so years, private developers have been investing in revitalization of the district, and 220 36th St. is emblematic of those efforts. The building contains nearly 300,000 square feet of recently renovated commercial space, with tenants including artists, photographers, audiobook makers, a car-sharing service, a talent incubator, a designer fashion resale company, and a foodie-style restaurant complete with table-top shuffleboard. In addition to the sit-down restaurant, a food court in the building features vendors who also ship and wholesale their food products to stores around Brooklyn and the greater New York City area.

Most of the food shops and retail stores are only open Monday through Friday, catering to the other tenants of the complex. But weekend events draw visitors as well, such as a free salsa party on a recent Sunday with live music, dance performances and lessons in the outdoor courtyard next to 220 36th St.

Mario Gonzalez, a security officer for Industry City, was working at the salsa event. He said he formerly worked security at a nearby hospital, but that he likes this job better. It’s a little more relaxed, he said, giving the example that he is allowed to have a beard at his new job. He lives just a few blocks away.

“Industry City has made Sunset Park better. It’s made the community look better,” said Gonzalez. But when asked what the worst part of living in the neighborhood is, he made reference to all of the recent change, and the potential for rental costs to increase.

If residential housing costs follow the trend of 220 36th St., Gonzalez has reason to be concerned about his rent going up. Records from the city’s Department of Finance show that the property’s market value was assessed in the $5 million to $7 million range for most of the last 10 years. For the 2015-16 tax year, however, the value jumped to over $9 million. And for the upcoming 2016-17 year, the assessment is a whopping $14 million.

The assessments consider the property’s income earning potential and expenses, so it’s not surprising that the value has gone up given the recent uptick in commercial activity. And that activity is creating jobs, according to an April 2016 news release from the City University of New York, which has partnered on a public-private collaboration at the site for job training, job placement, and support for entrepreneurs. The news release doesn’t have information about jobs specific to 220 36th St., but it does have data for Industry City as a whole. Around 4,000 people are employed in Industry City — a figure that has doubled since a new ownership group of the complex formed in 2013. Nearly half of those 4,000 people live near the complex. Those involved in the project hope to see 20,000 employees by the year 2025. 220 36th St. may need to expand its food court.

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