Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website, is relocating its headquarters from the Lower East Side to Greenpoint, a move that’s helping solidify the north Brooklyn neighborhood as an emerging hub for start-ups, arts, and culture.
The company, which has about 70 employees and is expected to grow, purchased a former pencil factory on Kent Street — designed an architectural landmark by the city — for $3.6 million. It’s in the process of renovating the three-story building and is set to move in by the end of this year.
This section of Greenpoint, a block from the East River and a short walk from the G train, is already changing. “It’s really become a great community of artists and successful entrepreneurs,” said Maryam Zadeh, an agent for the Prudential Douglas Elliman real estate firm, who is leasing loft space for businesses in adjacent buildings. “Given the demand, it’s been hard to find a space available because it’s going so quickly.”
Kickstarter, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this story. But it’s clear that the company’s new location puts it squarely within the kind of creative community that frequently relies on its services to raise money for arts, music, and tech endeavors.
That demand for commercial spaces — prime locations are renting for as much as $4 a square foot per month, high for the area — is a noticeable shift from just four or five years ago, when many loft spaces sat vacant. But as tech companies have moved into areas like Dumbo and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, a quick shot across the East River to the financial sector downtown, much of Brooklyn’s creative economy has shifted into this new territory.
Kickstarter’s move to Greenpoint is unique because the company opted to buy its own building rather than lease property, which is standard procedure for most start-ups. Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures, who backed the company shortly after its 2009 founding, is supportive of Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen’s decision to invest in a new space. He saying it fits squarely with the company’s goal to remain independent and sustainable rather than rely on future investment or a public stock offering. “Instead of agreeing to pay sky high rents and sign a long term lease that the company would quickly grow out of, Perry chose to buy an empty old pencil factory on the waterfront in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and spend the company’s profits fixing it up and making it into a physical instantiation of Kickstarter’s role as a resource for creators,” Wilson wrote last month on his blog. “They will be their own landlord.”
The new Kickstarter building, like many other commercial spaces in Greenpoint, maintains its existing exterior — a distinct contrast from the glass high-rise residential towers emerging along much of the East River. But architectural renderings show a thoroughly modern interior, featuring a glassy interior reminiscent of an Apple Store. The design is part of a broader trend among developers and property owners looking to maintain the existing character of the neighborhood.
“I like how they’ve been really protecting the neighborhood,” Zadeh said. “There’s a lot of new developments on the waterfront, but I think everyone’s so protective about keeping Greenpoint as much a neighborhood as possible.”