Live from Urban Exploration: Brooklyn

Trip updates from the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 2016 Urban Exploration trip to Downtown Brooklyn!

June 5, 2016

Welcome to Downtown Brooklyn! Using the 2007 Downtown Area Plan as our guide, we will be exploring places and spaces throughout Downtown Brooklyn and bringing back transformative ideas to make our center city stronger. Some of the things we will be exploring this year include:

  • Downtown Brooklyn’s parks and public spaces, many of which parallel Downtown Denver spaces like the 16th Street Mall and Skyline Park, for ways we can improve to enhance the quality of life, and create a sustainable, vibrant Downtown.
  • How private organizations are supporting security efforts Downtown to help inform our progress as we implement the comprehensive Security Action Plan for Downtown Denver.
  • How Downtown Brooklyn is responding to rapid population growth, changing demographics and development…all of which are also happening in Downtown Denver. The core of our focus will be how can we ensure affordable housing at a variety of price points so that our Downtown area remains a welcoming place for everyone.

June 6, 2016

The first full day of the Urban Exploration trip to Brooklyn included a morning overview by Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President and CEO Tucker Reed. Reed gave an overview of market statistics in Downtown Brooklyn, as well as discussing the success of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle that includes DUMBO, the Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn, higher education (Downtown Brooklyn is home to 12 colleges and universities) and affordable housing. According to Reed, current housing developments can only meet one month of demand, and a recent application process for affordable housing units saw 80,000 applicants for 40 available units.

The morning continued with breakout sessions that included:

  • Public Safety in the Downtown Brooklyn Area – Representatives from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and their public sector partners gave an overview of the command center and details of how their security program has helped keep Downtown Brooklyn safe and secure.
  • Fulton Street Mall – Fulton Street is a pedestrian street and transit mall in Downtown Brooklyn that welcomes more than 100,000 shoppers a day to more than 200 stores. Fulton Street generates $2 billion in revenue each year and commands the third highest rents in New York City. Retail rents run $200-$400/square foot and while street-level demand is high, property owners have a hard time leasing upper floors.
  • City Point Development – City Point is a 1.8 million square foot mixed-use development adjacent to Fulton Street Mall with retail, residential entertainment and office uses. Construction began in 2010 and is being built on city-owned land and includes an affordable housing component.
  • Connecting Higher Education and the Private Sector – As important as the supply of talent is to the creation and growth of an entrepreneurial and innovative business community, it’s equally important to connect students to internships and jobs, and connect faculty to the business community and industry. Participants learned about the Brooklyn Education Innovation Network and their Brooklyn Tech Triangle Internship Program that connects interns with startups in Brooklyn.

Photo Jun 06, 10 56 49 AM
Urban Exploration participants tour the City Point development.

At lunch, Urban Exploration participants learned how David Walentas and his development company Two Trees Management created the DUMBO neighborhood, including the company’s holdings of 12 buildings comprising more than 3 million square feet of commercial and residential space.

Afternoon breakout sesions included a bicycle tour, additional sessions about supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners in the urban core and a tour of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great example of creative open space planning coupled with public-private partnership strategy,” said John Desmond, the Downtown Denver Partnership’s executive vice president of downtown environment. “Derelict shipyards and piers have been converted into a variety of passive and active recreation facilities appealing to all ages, and the design emphasizes sustainability including the reuse of building materials and an environmentally sensitive shoreline that mitigated the impact of the Hurricane Sandy storm surge.”

June 7, 2016

The final day of Urban Exploration’s trip to Downtown Brooklyn began with a thought-provoking session on creating mixed income housing and sustainable communities with a presentation and Q&A session led by Jonathan F.P. Rose, founder of Jonathan Rose Companies. Rose emphasized the need to build communities of opportunity that serve the needs of the diversity of the city. “You need a safe, solid and green base – at the root of which is affordable housing – to ensure a healthy and successful future for children,” says Rose.

Participants then headed out on one of four walking tours to more deeply explore the places and spaces of Downtown Brooklyn:

  • Gowanus – Dubbed as Downtown Brooklyn’s next neighborhood, Gowanus brings canal-side living, as well as a community of artists, retailers and restauranteurs to a superfund site experiencing rapid redevelopment. Participants learned about building the neighborhood while also emphasizing the need to cultivate its unique and authentic identity.
  • Brooklyn’s Public Plazas – The New York City Department of Transportation works with selected not-for-profits to create neighborhood plazas throughout Brooklyn to transform underused streets into vibrant, social public spaces with a goal that all New Yorkers live within 10 minutes of a quality open space. Participants toured five plazas including Albee and Willoughby Plazas.
  • Brooklyn’s Cultural Hub | Brooklyn Academy of Music – The Brooklyn Academy of Music anchors Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural district blossoming with new development. Participants heard from the architect’s who designed South Site, a mixed-use development designed around cultural components.
  • Prospect Park – Prospect Park is one of Brooklyn’s most treasured destinations and a national landmark and is home to a permanent ice rink facility that doubles as a plaza and fountain space. Prospect Park is a great model as we evolve The Outdoor Downtown.

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock was joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for a motivational closing session, both encouraging Denver’s civic and business leaders to continue to be visionaries.

“Though transformation is challenging, it doesn’t mean you don’t take advantage of the opportunity,” said Mayor Hancock. “I hope we leave here with bold ideas and transformational vision.”

Adams applauded Mayor Hancock’s leadership in Denver, and encouraged City leaders to “seize the moment” while also sharing some of the lessons learned as Brooklyn developed. “We need to get out of the way of development,” he said. “Let’s push through people’s fears and help them focus on opportunities.”

Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO Tami Door offered closing remarks before sending people back to Denver to execute on their new ideas: “Never underestimate the small steps,” said Door. “You are here because you care so much about the center city and Denver as a whole, and you don’t have to have everything figured out to get started.”

Thank you to all of our attendees and our 2016 trip sponsors:


Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP
CRL Associates

Larimer Associates

Sewald Hanfling Public Affairs

Southwest Airlines


1st Bank
BBVA Compass
Dig Studio
EXDO Event Center
Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell
Kentwood City Properties
NAI Shames Makovsky
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
Shears Adkins Rockmore