The Williamsburg Hotel Boom - When did North Brooklyn become a destination?
Anyone who has recently traveled along Wythe avenue in North Williamsburg may have noticed a rapid change in what was an already a famously gentrifying neighborhood. Along a two block strip between North 10th and North 12th, you will see a cluster of new luxury hotels popping up faster than you can say 'L Train shutdown'. A boom that started with The McCarren Hotel & Pool has continued to move west towards the waterfront and further south towards the old Domino Sugar Factory. The neighborhood that ushered in the Hipster phenomenon has morphed into something more adult. If you walk a few blocks east of Wythe Avenue onto Bedford (the main thoroughfare), you will find a growing retail presence where you can get your new iPhone at the Apple Store, walk down the block to get your jeans at the Levis store, do some shopping at the Whole foods, and work-off those calories at the Equinox. How convenient.
Gone are the early hipster gathering places like The Galapagos Art Space, where you may have attended the latest indie film festival or burlesque show. Or The Glasslands Art Space, where one might catch a performance from the band TV On The Radio before heading to the after party at 475 Kent. All this probably followed by a late morning brunch at the Verb Cafe, where you may have been served a toasted everything bagel and hot chocolate from the very same TVOTR band members you were partying with the night before.
It was this insulated vibe that made Williamsburg the coolest place nobody new about in the late 90's early 00's. This was a time before millennials would come riding in on a social media wave, documenting and demystifying everything we once held sacred in this neighborhood. This was a time when Vice Media was just a small storefront in SoHo, American Apparel sold Baby T's and Babushkas in catalogues, and you could get a seat on the L Train at any time of day. Today American Apparel is going out of business, The wait to get into the Bedford avenue L could be longer than the time you spend riding the train, and the Disney owned Vice magazine now occupies the very same building that was The Glasslands Art Space.
Fate it seems is not without a sense of irony. ( Morpheus - The Matrix 1999)
But all has not been lost... despite the rapid changes Williamsburg still has its character. You can still find Polish old ladies nosily peering out their aluminum sided houses onto the streets below, or hear the Latino old timers slamming down Domino tiles in front of The South Side bodegas... Or you probably just carved out a piece of real estate on the concrete floor in McCarren park to catch a movie during the hottest night of the summer.
This neighborhood feels more like a village than a part of a major metropolis. It is still the coolest neighborhood I know. But don't take my word for it. Come visit for yourself, and don't forget, if you need luggage storage in between your room stay and your flight, reserve with Free Your Arms. (Shameless plug, I know.)
To read more about this hotel boom check out this article from The Daily Beast.