But that was then.
Today, entrepreneurs like George Uenishi are flocking to Gowanus and proving art, new media and the foodie movement can coexist alongside the canal after all.
Uenishi opened Digital Plus, a graphic and reproduction company, in a former 10,000-square-foot warehouse located at 411 3rd Avenue in early 2009, after relocating the business from the West Village, where it had thrived for many years. Uenishi said he was ready for the right kind of change, and found it immediately.
“I found this space on the first day I looked in Brooklyn,” said Uenishi, who was attracted by the cheap rent and short distance to lower Manhattan.
His sprawling shop, which employs 17 people, many of them Brooklyn residents, has a modern, laid back vibe; the space is noticeable for its lack of cubicles, its abundance of wine bottles and two enormous, $500,000 printing machines that Uenishi says are the best in the world.
Famous photographers agree. The works of Mark Seliger, Ben Baker, and others line the walls at Digital Plus, which also does work for lesser-known photographers, besides providing a host of other printing services.
The front of the studio is a well-curated, track-lit exhibition space that looks as if it was plucked right from SoHo, just as Uenishi hoped. The gallery is currently showing “20 Years of Photographs” by Adriano Faguentes. It recently hosted a well-attended opening for the exhibit, which is raising funds for Faguentes' next project in the Amazon.
Uenishi said the space is frequented by neighborhood residents and Manhattanites alike, who often come for a stroll in Gowanus before heading to nearby Park Slope for something to eat. “This is becoming like a destination” neighborhood, he said.
“I think people realize this is a great area.”