It is no surprise that the arts bring life to neighborhoods and communities throughout the city and the businesses in Brooklyn’s new up-and-coming Downtown Cultural District are beginning to use it to their advantage. Located snugly between downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, this district boasts more than 50 arts organizations of every discipline, and nestled among them are shops, restaurants, and residences. The project is a joint initiative between the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of City Planning, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership that will direct more that $100 million towards the arts, public spaces, and affordable housing. As developers flock to the neighborhood, they recognize that a key component to their success lies with the arts organizations already established there.
One early champion of this realization is the developer Dermot Company. Its 42-story, 326-unit property in the district comes with several desired amenities, including a one-year membership to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for tenants. Drew Spitler, Dermot’s director of development, says, “We’re trying to be as much a part of the community as we can and access the cultural institutions.” Some developers are even leaving space in their new buildings for arts organizations to fill. Partnering with and not driving out existing arts organizations seems to be the strategy as developers begin work in the neighborhood.
While the arts are becoming a major part of the area’s urban renewal and are being used as an attractive selling point by local businesses to engage more patrons, the arts organizations themselves are also reaping some benefits. As the 1,751 new apartment units fill up over the next two years, so will the seats and spaces of the arts venues like Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Theatre for a New Audience, or the city-owned Strand Theater building. The give and take partnership between the two sectors serves the interests of both and also contributes to a more exciting and creative community.
The pARTnership Movement’s 8 Reasons to Partner with the Arts says that employees want to live and work in a vibrant community, that the arts can enhance your brand and expanding your audience, and that when you partner with local arts organizations, you partner with the whole city. In this case, in this small neighborhood, businesses are embracing these principles and witnessing firsthand the success of their collaborations as The Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District continues to grow and thrive.