Excerpt from the article originally appearing in PRWeekUS website March 27, 2014
Once an undesirable cluster of warehouses and factories nestled under two of New York’s most famous bridges, the neighborhood of DUMBO has emerged as a vibrant creative and tech hot spot, home to worldclass digital and communications agencies, startups, and some of the hottest real estate in New York City.
DUMBO, which stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, has attracted a wave of digital and tech businesses that have turned their backs on Manhattan in favor of Brooklyn, initiating a shift in the city’s creative economy.
Digital agencies Huge, Carrot Creative, and Big Spaceship were among the first wave of tech firms to come to the area. Now, more than 400 tech and creative companies, large and small, call DUMBO home, including online marketplace Etsy, furniture and décor retailer West Elm, and payment app Dash.
The community has incubated a vibrant arts and cultural scene with galleries, boutiques, co-working spaces, and events such as lecture series CreativeMornings, and, as more restaurants and food trucks pop up, it is fast-earning its foodie stripes.
DUMBO owes its radical transformation to property developer David Walentas and his company Two Trees Management. When Walentas first set his sights on the area then known as Fulton Landing in the late 1970s, it was mainly being used for industrial activity such as light manufacturing and storage. Many of the pre-war factory and warehouse buildings were dilapidated, there were no residents, and abandoned cars were dumped on the streets.
Walentas bought 2 million square feet of property in 1981 for $12 million. The tech boom was in full swing when Two Trees began converting the buildings to residential spaces in the 1990s. Its relatively low rent and short leases, as well as bright and open spaces, were ideal for artists and cash-strapped tech entrepreneurs.
Urban theorist Richard Florida observed that the conditions that lead to bohemian culture are closely linked to high-tech industry. The presence of bohemians – artistically creative people – usually indicates more affordable living costs and an open-minded community, factors that tend to draw tech innovators and entrepreneurs.
This theory linking bohemia and tech innovation is evident in DUMBO as it still attracts artists, startups, and creative businesses. Many of the region’s employees live in Brooklyn, but the neighborhood is also easily accessible to Manhattan, making it a hive for talent.
A desirable community
While commercial rents have more than doubled since 2000, developers know keeping creative businesses in place makes the area more desirable to live and work in.
“If you look at other neighborhoods that have been developed without the culture component, they have grown into very sterile places,” says David Lombino, director of special projects at Two Trees. “It is more eclectic here and it mimics the New York condition, which is to work and live in close proximity, which you do not get in these newer neighborhoods or other US cities.”
DUMBO Improvement District was formed in 2006 as a nonprofit “micro chamber of commerce” to improve the infrastructure and marketing of the area. The group works with landlords and tenants to ensure businesses can grow.
“In DUMBO, entrepreneurs are always running into each other on the street,” says Alexandria Sica, executive director of DUMBO Improvement District. “There is a lot of collaboration. It is a burgeoning community.”
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