Joe Chan, Downtown Brooklyn Shopaholic

sit down chan Joe Chan, Downtown Brooklyn ShopaholicLocation: About six months ago you released an Ian McKellen-narrated video of what downtown Brooklyn would look like in five years. Given the current economic turmoil, would you release the same video today?

Mr. Chan: Absolutely.

The video cited $9.5 billion in private investment—that included Atlantic Yards?

That includes Atlantic Yards.

So you still think Atlantic Yards will happen?

Yeah, I think it is in the process of happening.

All 16 towers and arena?

The Atlantic Yards was always a project that was conceived as taking a few economic cycles to fully realize itself.

Is that huge $9.5 billion number a projected number or does it represent actual investment?

That includes projects that are in the development pipeline. … It may take a few years longer than was originally projected. But no project has been taken off the table or just been abandoned.

Have you seen a decrease in the number of new projects coming down the pipeline?

Yeah. But I don’t know how much of that is truly a factor of the financial markets, or how much is due to the fact that there are now 56 projects proceeding in downtown Brooklyn, and there is only so much land down here.

So, downtown Brooklyn is at capacity?

I wouldn’t say it’s at capacity. There’s certainly capacity left. But the majority of the more significant soft sites are spoken for.

When is your job done?

I don’t think it’s a finite job by any standard. We view the Partnership as being an entity that represents the interests of economic development in downtown Brooklyn moving forward. Downtown Brooklyn is a downtown to a city of 2.5 million people.

Are you seeing a lot of interest from national retailers in downtown Brooklyn?

Yes. I think what you’re going to see over the next 12 to 18 months is a real diversification of the retail market down here. I think you’re going to have a number of national-level retailers that have not had a presence in Brooklyn, some not in New York City, that establish themselves here because they realize the power of the Brooklyn market. … Right now, I don’t think downtown Brooklyn is capitalizing on its full potential to draw in shoppers from the brownstone communities and Dumbo. Frankly, a lot of their residents still shop in Manhattan.