Industry City Intersects Government & Business To Create “Innovation Economy”


Between the recently opened Brooklyn Nets training facility, and a growing eclectic mix of business tenants and nimble manufacturers that can also utilize retail space, Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball is slowly actualizing his vision to transform Sunset Park’s long abandoned 16-building, six-million square feet waterfront industrial complex into an urban leader for the world’s evolving “innovation economy.”

This is the second go-round for Kimball in economic development, who previously was at the helm of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – one of the city’s major economic success stories in mixing light industry and manufacturing with retail and education – and from which he brings a wealth of experience to Industry City.

“The Navy Yard, Industry City and the Brooklyn Army Terminal during World War II and post World War II had 100,000 people working at the three sites combined. That shrunk to as few as 5,000 in the early 90s, and when the large-scale manufacturing goes away the buildings fall into disrepair,” said Kimball.

Industry City CEO Andrew kimball explains the thinking behind the complex.

“That began to change first with the Navy Yard. We recognized the nature of manufacturing was changing dramatically. The large-scale days of the smokestack was over, and it gave was to a much more nimble creative class driven ecosystem of art, technology, design and fashion all mixing together with new production techniques like 3D printers,, laser cutters and CNC (computer used to control machine tools) Machines, which allowed you to do in 500 or 1,00-square-feet that you used to need a big factory for,” said Kimball, adding computers also cut down in the making of prototypes, which can now be done in hours and minutes, which used to take years.

So with this knowledge, Kimball and his team began to change how the Navy Yard was leased, cutting the complex into smaller spaces and bringing in smaller entrepreneurs that could grow in time and hire local people for jobs. The Navy Yard team also convinced the City to invest $250 million as the complex was City-owned, and they in turn used that to leverage $1 billion in private investment, and where the complex now has 10,000 jobs and continues to grow.

Kimball took what he learned and is applying it to Industry City, with the exception being its the largest privately-owned industrial complex in the City. The ownership consists Belvedere Capital, Jamestown Properties, Angelo Gordon, along with Cammeby’s International and FBE Limited, who put in an initial $100 million investment that led to the leasing of 2 million-square feet of space and over 2,000 jobs.

Several of the Juniper employees come from the local community and walk to work.
Several of the Juniper employees come from the local community and walk to work.

Encouraged by the success of this initial investment, the property’s owners are now prepared to move forward with the larger redevelopment program. To fully actualize the plan, the private-sector consortium, while not seeking and public sector money, is seeking a special rezoning to introduce new uses such as complementary university-based academic facilities, additional retail amenities, and a new hospitality center with meeting space and two hotels.

“We want to create an ecosystem here that includes retail at the base of the buildings, creating amenities for tenants, community and beyond. That also creates a revenue source that allows us to deal with our deferred maintenance,” said Kimball, adding investments are being made in window, elevator and electrical upgrades, new sidewalks and loading docks.

Additionally, Kimball would like to see the City do upgrades on surrounding decrepit streets, bile lanes and lighting under the nearby BQE.

But while this work is continuing, Industry City is beginning to thrive both inside where workers, entrepreneurs and artisans relax and enjoy “Innovation Alley” in the complex to mingle, eat and talk shop, and outside the complex, where the 36th Street stop on the R,N, and D lines is suddenly alive with activity during the rsuh hour with workers and local delis and restaurants are beginning to see increases in businesses.

Among the new businesses in Industry City is Juniper, a light and furniture manufacturer that has leased several thousand square feet of space, and has about 15 employees with a third of them coming from the local community – including two that walk to work every day.

“It’s smart for our tenants to look for local folks to work,” he said. “If they hired people from the north Bronx they wouldn’t be in the job for more than six months, but a lot of these workers can just roll out of bed and come here. And with a small company like Juniper there’s a good chance for upper mobility advancement.”

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