Farewell, Smith Street: In Memoriam of Brooklyn’s Restaurant Row

I recently read an interesting article on Brooklyn’s Restaurant Row, Smith Street:

Smith Street’s high quality laid back restaurant scene was certainly a significant neighborhood draw for Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, and one of the reasons why the housing markets in those neighborhoods experienced such meteoric price appreciation over the last 15 years (see $15.5MM Cobble Hill townhouse).  I have certainly enjoyed many quality meals there over the years, with particularly noteworthy ones at The Grocery and Char No. 4 – two of the latest casualties of rising rents and shifting neighborhood demographics.

That Smith Street now appears to be going the way of Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side and countless other once organically-low-key but popular retail strips across the City, with national chains appearing in greater numbers as retail rents are no longer affordable for small businesses like restaurants, is disappointing but, unfortunately, a predictable trend in the business of owning and operating real estate. This landlord of a new office building on Astor Place – the City’s one-time countercultural core – summed it up perfectly after signing CVS to occupy a large portion of the building’s retail space: “They’ve got a quality balance sheet…That’s what’s important to me. They’ll be in business a long time and they’ll pay the rent.”

The same cannot be said about the restaurants, bars or boutiques of local proprietors (well…at least with such certainty).  The business of real estate aside, I have hopes that low-key retail will live on in popular neighborhoods where housing prices seem to have an endless appetite for appreciation.  Perhaps the brilliant minds at City Planning will come up with a suitable solution (liberate side street retail)?.

The article on Smith Street can be found here.

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