Everyone knows that Bushwick has arrived — but will the shoppers follow?
The developer of a project that will bring 20 new shops to the often-hyped, but still largely underdeveloped, neighborhood certainly hopes so.
“The area still is a gamble,” admitted Israel Hirsch, vice president of Bushburg Properties, whose building, The Loom, is on Thames Street near Flushing Avenue. “But we put a lot of money into the space, as well as a lot of time, effort and aggravation. Hopefully it will be worth it.”
If The Loom’s soft opening on May 9 was any indication, it definitely was. Hirsch says the building was packed with locals who finished 25 kegs of beer by 11 pm.
“We had to close at 1 am,” he said. “But no one wanted to leave.”
The company is hoping that The Loom will spark the creation of a new neighborhood with one foot in the underdeveloped Bushwick and another in the gentrified East Williamsburg. This spirit is spelled out in the company’s name, Bushburg.
The building has been transformed from an old pillow factory into what Bushburg Properties hopes will be an eclectic mix of local off-beat stores. Above the mini-mall are several floors of lofts, which have already filled up, but only around 30 percent of The Loom’s storefronts, which go for about $1,500 a month for spaces that range from 600 to more than 1,000 square feet, have been rented so far.
Bushburg President Joseph Hoffman said chain companies, including McDonald’s, approached him to rent out large portions of the building. But he rejected inquiries from such large chains, prefering smaller, start-up businesses that will allow him to divide the mall into many small storefronts — similar to the example set by Mayer Schwartz, whose Bedford Mini Mall in Williamsburg used the same formula.
Kirby Desmarais, who lives a few blocks from The Loom and plans to open Water Tower Decks and Ink, a tattoo and skateboard shop, is exited about the space and hopes that it will bring new life to the neighborhood, where’s she’s lived for several years.
“We want to give younger teenage kids who can’t go to bars a place to hang out,” said Desmarais.
The Loom’s courtyard, with European style cobblestone, ivy, trees, free WiFi, and benches to lounge on, may prove to be just the right space for the under-21 crowd, that is if the post-teens aren’t bothered by the smell of Waste Management’s Varick Street transfer station just a few blocks away.
Desmarais noted that the neighborhood has changed recently, and said she was concerned that the new hipster destination would expedite gentrication.
But the tattoo enthusiast may be getting ahead of herself. There’s still plenty of heavy lifting to do before The Loom can open for business, and if Hoffman can’t fill all those storefronts he may wish he had accepted McDonald’s offer.