How DUMBO Became the Tech Hub of NYC

DUMBO has become more than a sightseeing destination — it’s a hot spot for tech companies in NYC. According to the DUMBO Improvement District, 80% of the companies based in this Brooklyn neighborhood, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, are in the tech and creative industries. To put that into perspective, 700 tech companies are currently based in a neighborhood that spans a mere 32 acres.

To find out how a neighborhood that was once a 19th-century ferry landing became a modern tech hub, I spoke to Tyler Perry, partner and GM of Bateman’s New York office. We discussed why Bateman rooted its first NYC office in DUMBO, how the neighborhood has transformed, and what’s to come.

1. Why did Bateman decide to locate their first NYC office in DUMBO, and stay in the neighborhood when moving to 45 Main Street from 20 Jay Street?  
We wanted to keep the Bateman aesthetic in our New York office — industrial, lots of light – — and be in a space and neighborhood that inspired creativity. DUMBO is the neighborhood in Brooklyn that has unique office spaces and a startup vibe. ​I also love that we can so easily go outside and feel outside. The waterfront is an incredible place to have walking meetings, eat lunch, or throw rocks in the East River at our “beach.” You can also find yourself ensnared in one of the hundreds of wedding and/or modeling photo shoots that happen down here, which adds an element of levity to the day.

2. Why do you think DUMBO became a hub for tech and creative agencies?​ ​
In 2013, it was reported by USA Today that DUMBO had the highest concentration of tech companies in all of New York! DUMBO is the closest you can get to Manhattan without actually being in it. When Two Trees Management started developing the neighborhood about 10 years ago, rent was inexpensive and the spaces were really attractive to creative companies like early adopters Huge and Etsy. Many of the buildings in DUMBO were former factories, so you saw bigger spaces, bigger windows, concrete or old hardwood flooring. Developers converted these buildings into offices and coworking spaces of varying sizes with flexible lease terms, which is hugely attractive to startups that are looking to start small and scale.

3. What have you seen change the most in DUMBO in the past 5 years?
Bigger names have moved to DUMBO – Etsy’s headquarter move, West Elm’s headquarter move, WeWork, Frog Design, and Vice. In response, services and restaurants have changed dramatically. When we first came to the neighborhood in 2012 there were VERY few food options and we were desperately following the DUMBO Food Trucks Twitter handle to see what was coming that day. Now we have DUMBO Taco, Bluestone Lane, Untamed Sandwiches, and Westville, with Glaze Teriyaki, Dig Inn, and Sweetgreen opening by the end of 2017.

Another explosive growth area is coffee. You combine startups and creatives and hipster coffee follows. We’ve also seen a big change in the fitness options. Last year Equinox opened right across the street, and we now have a Shadowbox, Yoga Vida and Row House. Tourism has also spiked as Brooklyn has become a global brand and people visiting New York have it on their “must see” lists (especially Brooklyn Bridge Park). Retail still has a ways to go but I am hopeful that we will get better retail here.

4. How do you envision DUMBO in 5-10 years?
DUMBO will continue to get more expensive, so we will see more mature startups settling here while others get their start in Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy or some of the other up-and-coming commercial real estate hubs. This will likely expand into Vinegar Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which houses The New Lab, an 84,000 square foot co-working and co-manufacturing space, which has massive development aimed at the tech industry planned. The ecosystem that supports it — retail, restaurants, etc. — will continue to grow to support this. I would also imagine we would get better public transportation. Getting to DUMBO from other parts of Brooklyn can be a pain, so Mayor De Blasio’s proposed bus route will hopefully be a reality soon.

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There’s also DUMBO Heights, a five-building campus with 1.2 million square feet of office, retail, and high-tech space. It features the Brooklyn Tech Gateway, a public plaza with charging stations, art, pedestrian and bike pathways, design shops, gyms, and food establishments.

I’d have to say another reason companies have flocked to the area is because of the views. Since starting at Bateman, I often take my lunch breaks at Brooklyn Bridge Park (which is two blocks from us). My Snapchat story includes this view 99% of the time, which fuels a great deal of  jealousy. If there’s a view that inspires creativity and innovation, it’s this one.