Brooklyn’s shipping container bazaar must move to make way a long-planned skyscraper — months before the leases of many of its artisans and eateries expire.
Downtown developers say DeKalb Market, a collection of more than 30 food, clothing, and gift boutiques working out of freight containers on a Willoughby Street lot, must vacate the property by October so the long-stalled City Point mega-development can finally break ground.
Merchants always knew they would eventually get booted from the space to make room for the planned housing and retail complex, which is replacing the Albee Square Mall and could one day boast Brooklyn’s tallest building.
But few expected that would happen before their leases run up at the end of December.
“It’s been a roller-coaster,” said Allison Robicelli, who co-owns Robicelli’s, a cupcake and brownie shop that opened with the market last summer. “We felt like we were going to get more notice to plan for the future.”
Urban Space, the group that operates the shipping container shopping center, sent a letter to merchants informing them they will get the boot earlier this week and promised to move them to a nearby location. It is unclear where that will be.
Market organizers did not return calls for comment, but last month a spokeswoman for the trendy souk said they had been expecting to receive a notice of eviction.
The builders behind the City Point project — which received $20 million in bonds from the federal stimulus package — said the market must move because they recently forged an agreement with the department store Century 21 to open a shop in their development.
“[The decision] was really driven by the commitment of Century 21 and the housing developers to the site,” said project spokesman Tom Montvel-Cohen, whose company Washington Square Partners is developing the site along with Acadia Realty Trust. “DeKalb Market was an interim use of the area, but it’s been a great thing to bring people Downtown and attract them to the area.”
So great in fact that some Brooklynites are lamenting the pending closure of the market, which they said was just hitting its stride with the addition of new vendors, more events, and a license to sell beer and wine.
“This place is just coming alive and turning into a destination,” said Julie Marlowe, who works at an industrial design firm nearby. “These are unique small businesses that I’d much rather support — I’m not sure what a big retail mall will be to the neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.