Friday, February 11, 2011

The Boom Continues: Three More Businesses Looking Ready to Open

As mentioned in yesterday's post, ILFA would love to see a small-business incubator in the neighborhood, but even without one, new places are sprouting like mushrooms along the Avenue. Today's walk to the train took me by three new spots that will be opening in the near future. From top to bottom (photos):

- Chavella's new location on Franklin is looking lovely, with a fresh coat of paint and some wrought-iron window screens. For those of you with a penchant for peeking through construction fences, take a look - the interior looks gorgeous, too - high ceilings, tile, and a long bar.

- The new Thai place next to the Laundromat at Franklin and Park, Sweet Basil (which doesn't seem to be affiliated with the Woodside restaurant of the same name), has its signage up and looks well on its way to completion. For those still miffed about the illegal tactics the landlord used to bring a pawn shop to Park Place, it's worth noting that this is one of his properties (along with the laundromat next door). The owners of the Thai place likely didn't know what they were getting into (and may well have signed the lease before the pawn shop situation blew up last October), and I don't know the current status of the boycott called by the CHCA and others, but I figured I'd put the information out there. Anyone know anything more regarding this place/the boycott?

- Finally, 666 Franklin, which will be a high-end nail salon, was looking shiny and new this morning (from what I've heard through the grapevine, they're slated to open in a few weeks - check back here and at the Franklin Avenue Merchants website for more info).


  1. New Thai place & a high end nail salon.., 2 places on my hit list.

    I'm still looking for good Thai in walking distance and I've tried about every nail salon on Franklin & Nostrand and am still searching for a home for the bi-monthly pedicure.

    Fingers are crossed.

  2. Udom Thai on Washington and St Marks is fantastic! It's hard to compete with, but a little competition can be good. Looking forward to Sweet Basil. :)

  3. Thanks, Nick, for keeping us posted! Those of us working the 9-5 grind in Manhattan rarely get to walk around and see how things are coming along in the 'hood. Looking forward to all the new developments!

  4. It's always great to hear about all the new developments on Franklin Avenue.

    However, with the rapid changes, I think it is also important to also step back and look at the macro perspective on this, and consider whether the retail mix as a whole is reflects the needs of the broader community.

    On the plus side, with these new businesses opening, it will benefit the older businesses in that it creates synergistic competition.

    But the key question is, is there enough disposable income here to support the increased competition? I would hazard, that around 70% of the patronage on Franklin Avenue comes from within a quarter mile radius of Franklin (roughly between Classon to the west and Rogers to the east). Is the growing retail mix sustainable given the neighborhood composition? Might the trend be doing a disservice to the residents of the neighborhood?

    The reality is that Crown Heights - unlike neighborhoods like Park Slope - has a significant stock of rent stabilized units, which not only helps stabilize rental rates, but also stabilizes disposable income in the neighborhood. So when the commercial landscape changes rapidly, the question is it just that the commercial landscape is finally catching up with the residential, or is it dangerously outpacing the residential, which might not be able to catch up.

    I'm not purporting to answer the questions, but I think they are important questions to ask.

  5. So excited for the nail salon! No good options in the area. Although quite a scary address ...

  6. LaurelB's comments are important to consider, i.e., how to insure that the changes on Franklin--and elsewhere in Crow Hill--are benefiting all of the residents, not just those with the highest incomes. However, I think her point about the prevalence of rent stabilized apartments is overstated. The upper west side of Manhattan has among the highest concentration of rent stabilized apartments in the City, which didn't impede its gentrification. Moreover, I suspect that economic support for Franklin Avenue will increasingly come from outside the neighborhood, i.e., it will become a destination, because of its proximity to public transportation. And perhaps that is the biggest concern, in terms of insuring that its development doesn't out pace the needs of those who live here.

  7. Anonymous - your point about rent-stabilization in the upper west side is an interesting case study, though it could be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

    For me the question is - when rent control laws were enacted, what was the relative income and mobility of residents of the UWS compared to Crown Heights now? If UWS then had more money and mobility than CH now, then the changes that happened in the UWS might not be expected to take place here.

    So for instance, if the average household income of residents in rent stabilized apartments the UWS was $75,000 (just to make up a number) compared to if the average household income of residents in rent stabilized apartments in Crown Heights is (just to make up another number) $35,000, then it would be more likely that folks in CH would be staying put for a lot longer than residents of the UWS.

    I do not know the history of the UWS, but it would indeed be an interesting case study if it was similar to Crown Heights.

    Now to your point about becoming a destination, to be a destination, a district has to boast a competitive advantage vis a vis other districts - lower prices, or better or unique products. That is what the Franklin Avenue/Crow Hill collective will have to work toward articulating if that is the goal.

    I would think the ideal situation is one where the commercial mix suits the residents; businesses compliment each other to create synergies; and is not skewed in any particular direction.

    For too long Franklin Avenue was riddled with vacant properties which served none of the above goals. Now it is finally getting some investment and love. But while the wants, needs, and spending power of the newer residents are and should be a very real factor in determining the success of Franklin Avenue as a commercial district, it is just as important to factor in the wants, needs, and the collective economic potential of residents of lower-incomes.

  8. I remember back in the late 90s, when Harlem finally began to gentrify.

    Several of the new businesses quickly went out of business because they did not predict the wants of the new (or old...) residents correctly.

    I remember one place in particular: A sit down restaurant opened, and tried to sell lunch for $9 - $11, when every place in the 'hood was selling it for $6. was gone in less than 6 months.

  9. Nick wrote: "I don't know the current status of the boycott called by the CHCA and others, but I figured I'd put the information out there. Anyone know anything more regarding this place/the boycott?"

    At their January mtg, CHCA announced that it will not continue to fight with the owner of the We Buy Gold and Electronics place, or boycott the landlord's other properties (i.e. the new Thai place or the laundry).

    I perceived their decision as a tactical, polite retreat. Whether they like the business or not, it is now seemingly in compliance with the zoning code.

    I think just about everyone at the mtg was glad that calmer, cooler heads had prevailed.

    I predict the Thai place and Chavellas will do well. if we could only get the owners of Bristen's to get their act together. Every time I walk buy that place, it is either closed or empty.

    Switching from burgers to dumplings didn't seem to help them... they need to advertise, get regular hours, and clearly state what they serve in their identity! ....I fear they will go under soon if they don't get their act together.

  10. The example of the upper west side was not raised as an analogy to Franklin Avenue, but rather as an extreme case to illustrate that rent stabilization does not prevent gentrification. I think the pace of gentrification in Crow Hill has sped up because residential and commercial properties in Prospect Heights became too expensive. Actually, I think that gentrification in the area was artificially slowed because of the reputation that Crown Heights got from the riots decades ago. Now that enough time has passed so people don't automatically make that association, the development in Crow Hill is proceeding like it did in Prospect Heights and perhaps Williamsburg and it seems like, in 5 years, Franklin will look a lot like Vanderbilt.

  11. Nothing "prevents gentrification", but some things (like rent stabilization) ensure that residents are not subject to rapid fluctuations in the rent. The goal of these policies is to ensure that the rights of the present tenants have some protections; neighborhoods are always changing.

    Crown Heights has been attracting higher income people for quite sometime, and (unlike many parts of the city...) has always had a base of middle class residents.

    Franklin Ave in Bed-Stuy in experiencing a similar boom in businesses: one really knows why individual business owners decide where to locate business, and of course, the reasons vary by the individual owner.

    I'm just glad that businesses are seeing the area's potential, and starting to invest in the community.

  12. I overheard someone outside my window at 4 am Sunday morning saying in a conversation that "this is turning into a white neighborhood" I live near Franklin and St. John's. If the EP and Franklin ground zero is ever developed this area will change more rapidly then it has been in the last few years. Franklin ave., not Crown Heights (which is pretty freakin big!) is and will continue to be a apart of the gentrification wave from Park Slope and Prospect Heights.

  13. Of course, it all depends how you define "white neighborhood", but if your neighbor was stating that the neighborhood has more "white" people than it did in prior years, he/she would be correct (the census confirms his impressions out).

    But if he s/he meant that the neighborhood was becoming exclusively "white", I think they are exaggerating.

    ...I don't think it has ever been completely "white", even when it was predominately Jewish.

    Depending upon your neighbor's skill set, and if they need a job, they may be able to profit from the local jobs being created.

    P.S. The big change for Franklin Avenue was the renovation of the vacant hospital buildings. The final building is currently in rent-up.

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  15. One more note: Much of CH is currently undergoing a revitalization, it isn't just west of Franklin Ave.

    Apartments are being renovated on Rogers and New York Ave, new businesses are coming to Nostrand. I linked above, it also isn't limited to the part of Franklin Ave that is patronized by the Hospital ....Franklin Ave in Bed-Stuy is getting developed.

    Today's Brownstoner has a great example as well. I remember the Bed Stuy block this development is located on from the 90s and it used to be soooo decrepit:

    ....the city is changing. To try to stop it is futile; the goal is to try and keep up.

  16. Hey Nick -

    On the subject of vacant buildings and new businesses, what do you or your readers know about 673 Franklin and why it is vacant. I've been in the neighborhood for about 3 years and don't recall ever seeing the Chinese(?) restaurant that I found when searching the address online.

    Why is it vacant? With the rather expensive security gate, the interior surely has strong potential?

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