Rebuilding the Grand Street retail corridor
by Andrew Shilling
Jul 10, 2013 | 1774 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The nearly 170 storefronts in the Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID), stretching from Bushwick to Union avenues in East Williamsburg, have discovered their neighborhood operates on a tricky business model.

The street just might be where the clash between the eastbound, migrating art communities of North Brooklyn and longtime residents of Brooklyn is most prevalent.

That is why the BID brought in Larisa Ortiz Associates two months ago to study the demographics, trends and overall appeal in the community to help determine a possible solution to growing a thriving business region.

While still in the early phases of the five-month study, Larisa Ortiz Associates provided their analysis of the district last week at the Grand Street BID headquarters, located at 246 Graham Avenue, to gather additional input from the board members and property owners in the district and determine the best future for Grand Street.

Board member Lori Raymer, owner of Lily Thai Restaurant at 615 Grand St., recognizes her district as the dividing line between a newly developed neighborhood and the those now threatened with rising rents and overall gentrification of the community.

“I’d like the neighborhood to evolve, but I don’t want to see the longterm residents left behind,” Raymer said. “I don’t know if it’s possible, but I just always feel that people in a neighborhood like this, that they’ve been here through thick and thin, for the good times and the bad. Now is sort of the good times because the area is lifting and getting more affluent, and I would just like them to be able to partake in the good times.”

The study provides the Grand Street BID with a detailed analysis of the corridor and determined a picture of distinctly differing sets of residents who make up significant portions of the district.

According to the study, high-income homeowners have seen an annual increase of 3.4 percent, twice as much as the borough’s overall growth, while the population of art and designers makes up 15 percent of the growth, the highest in the city.

While “High Rise Renters” make up 33 percent of the customer base within the confines of the BID; “Trendsetters,” “Metro Renters” and the “Young and the Restless” that are moving into the region or commuting to Grand Street constitute 67 percent of spenders, according to the data.

“There is something unique about Grand, as it has sort of a split personality,” said Larisa Ortiz, principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates. “There are two different markets, two different customers and they’re not on the same page at all times, so retailers often have to choose to go after one or the other, but there are some who also target both.”

Her company focuses on categories like price specs, the overall lifestyles that reflect the sizes of spaces, and they also ask people on the street which types of businesses they would like to see.

Her company’s statistics show there is roughly $75.5 million in retail leakage, shoppers traveling to other neighborhoods for their goods. Most of the leakage is from general merchandising, groceries, clothing and food services and alcohol.

Ortiz said that Steinway Street in Astoria is a similar district and hopes to bring in some comparable business prospects for the Grand Street BID to help grow the local market.

“We can learn something from Steinway and apply some of the principles to here,” she said. “Moving forward, they’re going to have all that information and they’re going to know the districts.”

While members of the community were very interested in developing a thriving market, the overall consensus was to reach both demographics and develop a model that would include everyone.

“The research data and information Larisa Ortiz Associates has provided us is accurate, helpful and very interesting,” said Artineh Haven, executive director of the Grand Street BID. “It also confirms what we anticipated and knew anecdotally.”

Within the next couple of weeks, the BID and Larisa Ortiz Associates will work together to draw a better picture of the district and create a blueprint for the future of East Williamsburg.

“It will help us create a strategy to attract retail that will benefit both the business and residential communities, and we are very excited to continue this work,” she said.

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