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Look out Court Street — this Prospect Heights activist is courting your merchants

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn has plenty of bargain hunters — but only one store hunter.

Atim Oton made a public pledge to fill Prospect Heights’s empty storefronts, and since then it has been her personal mission to persuade businesses from other, slightly trendier neighborhoods to move east of Flatbush Avenue.

“If there are businesses in other communities that you like and want them to be in the neighborhood … I will make a personal visit and ask them to come to the community,” the business owner and chairwoman of Community Board 8’s economic development committee promised the full board last month.

On her poaching trips, Oton says she visits with merchants and talks up the neighborhood’s charms — including its proximity to attractions such as the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden — and urges business owners to get in while the getting is good.

Commercial rents for spaces on Washington and Franklin avenues — which range from 500 to 1,500 square feet and rent for between $2,500 and $5,000, she said — are a tempting opportunity for retail establishments on much more expensive commercial corridors such as Smith and Court streets, where rents for comparably sized spaces can go for almost double those amounts.

And it’s exactly those types of businesses that Oton and other economic movers and shakers in the neighborhood hope to lure.

The Washington Avenue–Prospect Heights Association recently hired a consultant who determined that the community needs boutique-style stores to thrive.

“We don’t want stores that are going to try to compete with Target or Ikea,” said Oton.

Suggestions floated so far have included a flower shop, a kitchen supply store, and a home furnishings outpost.

Washington Avenue’s ever expanding crop of hip new restaurants and bars has not yet eliminated its vacant storefront problem — the street still has 24 vacancies.

But the saturation of the new bars and restaurants has created some animosity in longtime neighborhood residents, who say the area is oversaturated with victual supply stations.

Of course, the neighborhood’s new business headhunter has a heady solution if additional eateries and drinking establishments begin plotting moves to Prospect Heights.

“If a restaurant wants to come in, I would point them toward Nostrand Avenue,” said Oton.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

Raul from Prospect Heights says:
Go Atim Oton! Great to see some coverage of people dedicated to our neighborhood!
March 4, 2013, 9:47 pm
John from Westminster Road says:
A spruced up and enlivened Washington Avenue would make some of the culture venues more attractive to tourists. And why not put a first class resturant in the Richard Meier building on Eastern Parkway?
March 5, 2013, 12:19 am

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