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Published On: Tue, Feb 26th, 2019

Brooklyn Seaside Shopping Plaza Once Developed by Bayrock Group is Thriving

The seaside shopping plaza once developed by the Bayrock Group investment company remains a staple of the sleepy yet thriving Brooklyn community of Sheepshead Bay.

The southern Brooklyn community of Sheepshead Bay has always found its strength in the water and in its people. The ethnically diverse population of immigrants and recreational fishermen has remained somewhat of a small town within the larger New York City borough. Today, the neighborhood is thriving with stores, cafes and restaurants catering to the local residents. The primarily residential community dominated by immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union is located on the southern part of Brooklyn adjacent to Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Gravesend and Marine Park.

photo/ Jo Wiggijo via pixabay

Seaside Shopping Destination Developed by Bayrock

Sheepshead Bay has seen a revitalization with development of several projects beginning in the early 2000s. The Bayrock Group, founded by businessman Tevfik Arif, began operating in the United States in 2001. The investment company specialized in mixed use luxury proprieties. Their first project was the redevelopment of the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza at 2101 Emmons Ave on the waterfront in Sheepshead Bay. Bayrock Group also played an integral role in the development of the Trump SoHo condo-hotel tower located in Manhattan.

The three-story 63,000 square foot property was anchored by a Loehmann’s department store and included a 50,000 square foot parking garage. The upscale retail space was originally leased to several fashionable brands including Nine West Shoes, Baby’s Dream NY and Royal Princess Jewelers. The space also included popular restaurants with seaside views. The property is home to the infamous Seaport Buffet. With its close proximity to the water, the area is well-known for its seafood restaurants, and the Seaport Buffet offers a wide selection of high quality and is always busy during dining hours.

Emmons Avenue is the main thoroughfare opposite the water in Sheepshead Bay it is a popular shopping and entertainment district for local residents. The Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza was originally built in 1996 under a special zoning variance from the city due to its proximity to the water and city zoning laws restricting building size and use. The shopping center quickly became a popular entertainment destination with easy access to public transportation.

In 2008, Bayrock Group sold the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza for a record $24 million to a group of local and European investors, making it the largest real estate deal in the Brooklyn neighborhood in the 20 years preceding it. The new investors chose the continue operating the property as a successful retail and entertainment plaza.

Transforming Destruction into Opportunity

One of the buildings continuously-operated businesses, the XO Creperie, suffered a damaging fire in 2009. Luckily, no one was in the restaurant when the fire broke out. The second-floor restaurant with a terrace overlooking the bay underwent an impressive renovation and opened again with little delay. The fire also caused damage to the Loehmann’s store, which turned the unfortunate circumstances into an opportunity to renovating their space.

Hurricane Sandy brought destruction and devastation to Brooklyn in 2012, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods was Sheepshead Bay. Flooding caused long term power outages and structural damage to several businesses located along Emmons Avenue.

Superstorm Sandy left many business owners and residents reeling with enormous financial burdens. The seaside community slowly began to rebuild. The below ground-level first floor of the Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza suffered from extensive flooding during the storm. Many businesses remained closed for months for cleanup and renovations.

In March of 2014, the owner of the property, Alex Levin submitted plans with the city to build an additional floor on the roof of the shopping plaza containing commercial and office space. The new extension to the building would include an additional 10,000 square feet. There has been some local resistance to this new expansion and in order to proceed the developers required an additional variance to the zoning ordinances of the location. In early 2015, the developers passed the first building hurdle when the community board approved their plan for expansion. There has been no further development in regard to this expansion at this time.

A New Department Store Breathes New Life into Shopping Center

When the Loehmann’s department store closed in 2014 after its parent company filed for bankruptcy, the property did not stay vacant for long. In 2015, Macy’s began a new venture in the off-price retail sector. They opened one of the first six pilot Macy’s Backstage locations in the former Loehmann’s space, renaming the property Macy’s Backstage Seaport Plaza. The grand opening was welcomed by the diverse neighborhood with much fanfare including an appearance by a marching band.

The new store was part of a trial period to determine if there was viability in the off-price sector for the nationwide retailor. Macy’s Backstage is a smaller discount counterpart to the flagship Macy’s department stores. Backstage specializes in offering designer clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances and homewares at discounted prices. Backstage has been compared to similar off-price retailers Nordstrom’s Rack, TJ Maxx, Ross and Marshall’s. The initial pilot launch of Macy’s Backstage proved to be hugely successful for the company, now operating hundreds of locations across the United States.

A Growing, Diverse Community

With the changing demographics of the neighborhood, there has been a growing demand for quality shopping and entertainment venues. In recent years, Sheepshead Bay has seen a steady flow of immigrants from Russia, Asia, Turkey, India and the Middle East, as well as an influx of younger new home owners seeking affordable living options in the city. The community continues to prosper with many attractions including bungalow homes, luxury residences, iconic seafood restaurants, fishing piers and quality schools. The community celebrates its diversity and strengths every year during its popular BayFest event held along Emmons Avenue offering live music, rides, parades and special sailing demonstrations. The event attracts thousands of Brooklyn families and residents to the waterside community every year.

The original Loehmann’s Seaport Plaza developed by the Bayrock Group has remained a fixture of the waterfront since it was opened. Its transformation through the difficult period following Hurricane Sandy to the thriving shopping and entertainment center it continues to be today is testament to the resiliency of the Sheepshead Bay community and residents.

Author: Colin Steinway

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