Does Gowanus' Value Truly Hinge On Potential Zoning Changes?
Driven by commercial development, a budding hospitality industry and an upcoming speculative residential boom, Gowanus has risen above the two miles of polluted water that runs through it to sustain significant economic growth over the past several years.
But is the neighborhood's celebrated potential merely a swelling bubble that's aching to pop? Will more residential zoning be needed for the former industrial hotspot to truly become the next sleek, high-value neighborhood for New Yorkers searching for housing in the boroughs?
GFI research analyst Justin Fitzsimmons tells Bisnow that the flow of investment capital to the area suggests the neighborhood's residential future has already been decided.
"For years, many investors and potential residents could only see—or perhaps couldn't get over—the pollution level of the canal," Justin says. "The general opinion was that this contaminated waterway was obstructing rezoning and jeopardizing the chances of the area having the potential of really taking off."
While the neighborhoods surrounding Gowanus saw housing prices rocket upward, it seemed this would remain the one neighborhood left unaffected by Greater New York's remarkable gentrification.
"That issue was somewhat put to bed when the Gowanus Canal was officially designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010," he says, pointing to the $500M cleanup of the toxic waterway that officially launched in 2016.
But a cleaner canal and the rising value of nearby areas aren't the only positive changes for the once-downtrodden neighborhood.
"Despite what others may say," Justin tells us, "Gowanus' transportation options are up to par with other neighborhoods in the area."
The F, G, D, N and R trains run through the neighborhood and only need two stops to place them at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center transit hub. Additional forms of transportation may be on the way, with the city considering adding a ferry to the canal pending the completion of the environmental cleanup.
Should the Department of City Planning pass residential rezoning as planned, even more options could be on the table.
"In this case, Mayor de Blasio will have even more ammunition for his $2.5B proposal for the Brooklyn Queens Connector," Justin tells us.
Being able to leave is great, but for a neighborhood to succeed it needs to draw people in as well.
"Whole Foods and a growing hotel market seem to have laid the groundwork for the currently growing Gowanus restaurant and retail scene," Justin says. "New retail establishments, like boutique spas, yoga studios and craft bars, have been popping up to meet the growing and, what many see as inevitable, demand. Residential demand, should it be allowed to thrive via rezoning, is sure to follow."
Justin points to popular draws such as Dinosaur BBQ and Freek's Mill as popular eateries in the area.
The bottom line is that residential rezoning would certainly help Gowanus' values, but the area's fate is likely not in the balance. There is plenty to draw commerce to the area as it continues to reinvent itself following years of prioritizing industrial growth ahead of aesthetics.