RentCement traveled through Bushwick to document the intense real estate boom and its implications on gentrification. The trip today started at the Flushing Avenue station on the J line, where I visited several construction sites. My travels took me mostly along the southwestern border of Bushwick. The first site I visited wasn’t a residential building at all, but 815 Broadway, a commercial building that just completed renovations – and a bit of tagging.
What’s happening in Bushwick that so much money was poured into this building, especially that it now attempts to conjure the vibe of Madison Avenue? The answer has something to do with the billions of dollars currently being sunk into Bushwick by real estate investors. This money being “sunk” isn’t actually making tenant’s lives better mind you (unless you make at least $100,000 a year, and have no other financial obligations), since the investment inevitably pressures tenants out of their apartments. So what’s happening at 815 Broadway is not just a renovation, but a statement about where real estate investors think southwest Bushwick is heading. And probably low-middle income tenants as well.
As seen in the above picture, there’s a chain link fence that surrounds the building. But it’s not so secure as to prevent local taggers from marking up the building. The interior work seems mostly complete, at least complete enough that leasing signs are visible. If you told me a Sacks Off Fifth was moving in next week, I would believe it. Other than the tagging, the building looks pristine, as if a stonemason back in 1930 just finished carving the last detail. Just four years ago, this was not the case, as the discount realtor Conway occupied the storefront. Even though the Sumner Houses are just to the south, clearly this neighborhood needs prime retail.
There’s no room for Conway in Bushwick any more.
Make no mistake, this is a changing neighborhood, and has been for some time. But this type of investment is significant, it’s a beachhead storefront that removes retail inventory suitable for a lower income community. It’s a clear indicator that real estate speculation is intense, where a changing landscape flush with cash will continue to add pressures to long term and low (and middle) income tenants.