07/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bushwick Mini-Mall To Transform Neighborhood?

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By Jacob Kleinman

for The Brooklyn Paper

Everyone knows that Bushwick has arrived — but will the shoppers follow?

The developer of a project that will bring 20 new shops to the often-hyped, but still largely underdeveloped, neighborhood certainly hopes so.

Joseph Hoffman, president of Bushburg Properties, is hoping that The Loom, his new mini-mall off Knickerbocker Avenue, will transform the neighborhood from a suburb of Williamsburg to Brooklyn’s new hotspot. For real this time.

“The area still is a gamble,” admitted Israel Hirsch, vice president of Bushburg. “But we put a lot of money into the space, as well as a lot of time, effort and aggravation. Hopefully it will be worth it.”

If The Loom’s soft opening on May 9 was any indication, it definitely was. Hirsch says the building was packed with locals who finished 25 kegs of beer by 11 pm.

“We had to close at 1 am,” he said. “But no one wanted to leave.”

Hoffman is hoping that The Loom will spark the creation of a new neighborhood with one foot in the underdeveloped Bushwick and another in the gentrified East Williamsburg. This spirit is spelled out in the company’s name, Bushburg.

The building, at 100 Thames St. with its main entrance on Flushing Avenue, has been transformed from an old pillow factory into what Hoffman hopes will be an eclectic mix of local off-beat stores. Above the first floor mini-mall are several floors of lofts, which have already filled up, but only around 30 percent of The Loom’s storefronts, which go for about $1,500 a month for spaces that range from 600 to more than 1,000 square feet, have been rented so far.

Among the businesses that have already signed on are a single-screen independent movie theater, and a hair and nail salon. Hoffman said chain companies, including McDonald’s, also approached him, offering to rent out large portions of the building, but he rejected the chain’s inquiries.

Instead he’s leaning towards smaller, start-up businesses that will allow him to divide the mall into many small storefronts — similar to the example set by Mayer Schwartz, whose Bedford Mini Mall in Williamsburg used the same formula to perfection.

Kirby Desmarais, who lives a few blocks from The Loom and plans to open Water Tower Decks and Ink, a tattoo and skateboard shop, with her husband Mark, is exited about the space and hopes that it will bring new life to the neighborhood, where’s she’s lived for several years.

“We want to give younger teenage kids who can’t go to bars a place to hang out,” said Desmarais.
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The Loom’s courtyard, with European style cobblestone, ivy, trees, free WiFi, and benches to lounge on, may prove to be just the right space for the under-21 crowd to get together, that is if the post-teens aren’t bothered by the smell of Waste Management’s Varick Street transfer station just a few blocks away.

Desmarais noted that the neighborhood has changed drastically in the past few years, and wondered if the new hipster destination might be the final nail in the coffin for the neighborhood’s local population.

“It’s sad that families are being pushed out by rising rents,” she said.

The tattoo enthusiast may be getting ahead of herself. There’s still plenty of heavy lifting to do before The Loom can open for business, and if Hoffman can’t fill all those storefronts he may wish he had accepted McDonald’s offer.

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