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Commercial Rents on Myrtle Ave. Remain High Despite Vacancies

By Janet Upadhye | February 27, 2013 8:21am | Updated on February 27, 2013 8:22am

FORT GREENE — Potential business owners with a bright idea need look no further than Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene where commercial space is aplenty.

What was once dubbed "Murder Avenue" is now a bustling commercial street with specialty wine shops, bakeries and affordable to upscale restaurants.

And though rents may be high, there are currently more than 10 storefronts to choose from in the 13-block span between Classon Avenue and Fort Greene Park.

"There is no place like Fort Greene, right now, to invest in a small business," said real estate agent Sandra Tigott. "Especially with so many vacancies on the avenue."

Michael Blaise Backer, director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, agreed that vacancies were on the uptick. He said that the number of Myrtle Avenue vacancies was not necessarily higher than usual, but that spaces were staying vacant for longer periods of time.

Despite the empty storefronts, commercial rents are still rising.

Tigott currently has a storefront available at 336 Myrtle Ave., one block from Fort Greene Park. She is asking $5,000 a month to rent the space.

"That is a definite increase from what it was," she said.

Backer doesn't have a definitive explanation for the rent increases.

"I honestly cannot say if the recent increase in rents is due to landlords’ own choices or due to brokers who are advising the landlords to ask more," he said.

But some businesses like Brooklyn Stone Boutique, which is now exclusively online, and Dope Jams, which saw its rent recently increased threefold, are slowly moving out of the neighborhood as their space becomes unaffordable.

And they are leaving behind unique spaces, often hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling display windows in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

Backer is working with landlords to provide more appealing monthly rents.

"The BID does its best to temper landlord expectations," he said. "We feel that as vacancies seem to remain on the market for a long time, brokers and landlords need to lower asking rents in some cases." 

"The BID wants to ensure that new businesses sign leases that are realistic and where they can afford to pay the rent for many years to come given their expected growth rate."

Plus, with help from the Pratt Area Community Council, which helps start-ups find local financial and business resources to get started, Fort Greene's Myrtle Avenue is a promising place for a few great ideas.

"Myrtle is a wonderful place for small, locally owned businesses," Backer said.