An old-time Brooklyn family’s plan to turn a plot of land next to Caesar’s Bay — and some water rights it was forced to buy at the turn of the 20th century — into a giant shopping center could pave the way for Walmart’s entrance into Brooklyn.
The Cropsey family — yes, the very same family for which world-famous Cropsey Avenue is named — wants to bring a big-box tenant to the Shore Parkway site where its lumber company milled wood for 100 years, and Walmart is on the list of potential suitors.
“We definitely think that there is going to be interest from the big box retailers, it could work for Walmart, BJ’s, Costco and the like,” said Geoffrey Bailey of TerraCRG, which is marketing the lot between Bay 34th and Bay 35th streets.
The Cropsey property on Gravesend Bay is about the size of four football fields and is home to the Harbor Motor Inn, the New York Sports Club and Stop and Stor, a self-storage facility. But owner James Cropsey wants to triple the size of it by building atop new piers that will extend over water rights that his great-grandfather Harmon was strong-armed into purchasing in 1895.
“He was forced to spend a significant amount of money on something he was already using for free,” Cropsey said, who added the state threatened to cut off his family’s access to the mill via the bay by selling water rights around it.
The living Cropsey told us that his great-grandfather only purchased the 14 acres of water rights to protect the mill, and never thought it would be a lucrative investment. But now, with a shopping center next door and a BJ’s Wholesale Club eying an adjacent property, he thinks the water purchase could finally pay dividends.
But like the BJ’s next door, moving in a big-box like Walmart to the waterfront would require a zoning change that allows retail sites, which is partially zoned for manufacturing.
“Getting this spot developed is a lengthy process,” Bailey said. “But we’d like to see this sooner rather than later.”
That could mean trouble if Walmart intends to move in.
The Bentonville Behomouth has faced an uphill battle in its attempts to set up shop in Brooklyn. In April, Walmart foes urged the city not to sell land it owns to a developer they believe will bring in the superstore to a planned shopping center off the Belt Parkway near the Queens border. The mayor’s office still hasn’t decided on that land transfer.
Walmart would join big-box chains Kohl’s and Best Buy in the area, but some say that they don’t want a mega-merchant that sells everything from cereal to bicycles taking up a coveted waterfront space.
“There should be a shopping center with lots of smaller stores and restaurants there,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Tina Maffo. “One big store isn’t the best way to utilize the waterfront.”
Walmart officials declined to comment on the potential location, but Bailey says that Walmart — or any other big-box for that matter — would be a success, noting other shoreline shoppers paradises like the IKEA on the Erie Basin in Red Hook.
“The site is ideal for large retail,” said Bailey.
The Cropseys have owned the Shore Parkway property for nearly 400 years, when the Dutch government granted the land to an 17th century ancestor. In the early 19th century, Col. James Cropsey lumber company opened on the plot, and operated there for more than a century.
The gym, motel and storage facility opened there in the 1970s.