Now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to give up its lease on the city-owned 370 Jay St. building, the question keeps coming up: What should be done with this eyesore of a building?
To me, it’s a no-brainer to find a way to make this perfectly located tower a resource for Downtown. First and fore most, we should shoot for tenants who are both the most numerous in the market and create the most jobs.
Education and “creative tenants” — the former already popular Downtown and the latter squeezed out of DUMBO — by far lead the market in terms of need and demand. They are both creating jobs faster than other industries. For example, DUMBO, the creative center of Brooklyn, is on track to close 200 leases in 2010 and 2011. Ten years ago, it had a few dozen tenants. “Creative tenants” are generally design, web marketing, multimedia producers, film and television companies and software developers.
The borough president is right to tout a big statistic about Brooklyn: Our Mac-to-PC ratio is the highest in the region. Brooklyn is the second or third most creative county in America; Los Angeles County, Manhattan and our own Kings. Those tenants need 700- to 1,500- square-foot spaces, perfect for 370 Jay St., which has 80-foot widths in many places and is a “column forest.” They are often start-ups, grow quickly and hire local workers.
Large tenants — 10,000-square-foot and up — are few and far between in Brooklyn. The biggest exception is the public, charter, vocational school sector. There are more of these in the market than adequate spaces. Education is one the biggest employers in the city. The old Family Court building on Adams Street was planned to take the Housing Court, but instead went to high school use. Let’s put a school on the lower floors of 370 Jay St. and build the higher floors for creatives.
We’ll see what the actual developers who’ll create this space come up with. That’s what counts; they’re the builders. But when people ask me about 370 Jay St., I tell them this is what the market needs.
Chris Havens, who lives in Carroll Gardens, specializes in leasing and sales for his company, Creative Real Estate Group.