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Brooklyn Navy Yard - Greenpoint

This Technology Incubator is Helping Preserve Historic Brooklyn Navy Yard and Expand Local Economy

It’s been several months since our New York City Real Estate Tech Week multimedia program about the rise of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth checking out the recap. Among the participants were top executives from WeWork, Rudin Management, and The Navy Yard along with tech entrepreneurship ecosystem New Lab Executive Chair David Belt. Since then, The sprawling Yard has seen a lot of progress, including a recent groundbreaking for a smart factory courtesy of manufacturing tech company Nanotronics.

Another recent development is New Lab’s own expansion into a new space just down the street from the original headquarters building. The new facility is meant to serve as office space for more of New Lab’s companies as well as function as a home base for two programs run by New Lab: Studio Model, which connects entrepreneurs with partners in order to work in areas like quantum computing, new perspectives in retail, and advanced supply chain management; and Generator, a program run in partnership with venture capital fund Antler to help entrepreneurial individuals without specific products of their own. It’s an interesting approach meant to take advantage of perhaps the most valuable resource of all: individual drive. According to Shaun Stewart, CEO of New Lab, Generator “will create 100 new startups in Brooklyn over the next 3 years.”

The development of the new building, located at 77 Washington Avenue, was a thoughtful rehabilitation of an older property. According to Jejon Yeung, partner at project architecture firm Worrell Yeung, “The building is over 120 years old and has stood the test of time. We wanted to preserve and showcase its history through its rich textures of the brick and wood timber columns and beams. This complemented with new and contemporary elements create a more dynamic environment that does not merely erase its long history but extends it.”

Preservation, or at least remembrance, has been part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard project since its inception. Originally a shipyard and assembly area for naval vessels, the Yard has seen a resurgence, particularly in the manufacturing sector, in recent years thanks to a combination of private efforts, public funding, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. It’s a continuation of a use that started in the 1800s, and a fascinating example of a modern approach to a very old industry.

But the new facility isn’t all old. The space also prioritizes outdoor space and modern amenities, as well. Jejon explained that “in a dense urban environment like New York, there is never enough outdoor green space. Providing visual and physical connections to plantings and natural light only elevates the wellness of the work space. There is a variety of plant species in the gardens and places to sit and enjoy these spaces.” Inside the building, attention to daylighting, infrastructure, such as storage, for cyclists, and water bottle filling stations flesh out what the new facility offers.

So while the bones of the building may be the same as when the Navy Yard was assembling warships a hundred years ago, much of the rest of it has changed with the times. This is where we could make any number of flowery analogies to the shifting nature of the otherwise stuffy real estate business thanks to modern tech and design trends. But the reality is, 77 Washington, New Lab, and the Navy Yard, in general, is simply an excellent example for plenty of other old buildings and depressed manufacturing districts around the country, on the coasts, throughout the Rust Belt, and beyond.

Associate Publisher, Propmodo Research