It’s official: Brookfield Properties earlier this week announced that MetroTech Center, the 16-acre office park and educational hub first proposed by the Regional Plan Association in 1983 and eventually realized in the early 1990s to help resuscitate an emptied-out Downtown Brooklyn, has been rechristened as Brooklyn Commons. As part of the rebrand, the developer, which acquired MetroTech in 2018 from original developer Forest City Realty Trust, is investing in a $50 million refresh of the sprawling superblock campus bounded by Flatbush Avenue Extension and Jay Street.
As detailed in a Brookfield press release and local media outlets including the Brooklyn Eagle, three of MetroTech’s 12 buildings—the 23-story 1 MetroTech, the 10-story 2 MetroTech, and the newer 19-story 15 MetroTech—will be treated to extensive overhauls as part of the planned redevelopment. New lobbies, outdoor terraces, and revamped ground-level retail for each of the buildings are all part of the plan. The former MetroTech Center’s central privately-owned public green space, a 3.5-acre landscape now dubbed Brooklyn Commons Park, will also be redesigned in an effort led by James Corner Field Operations. New outdoor seating, enhanced lighting, new wayfinding elements and signage, reimagined plantings and gardens, and more are all part of the public realm reimagining.
In its infancy, the self-contained MetroTech never made any pretenses about being an exciting or novel place to work. Largely cloistered from the rest of Downtown Brooklyn, it was a workaday urban office park and research center with no real architectural significance to speak of. Populating the campus were (and still are) data centers and back offices for several major companies (JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield among them), a modern campus for Polytechnic University (now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering), a smattering of fast-food joints, and not a whole lot else. Public programming in its commons was nil. MetroTech workers went in and then got out, and the most alluring aspect of the complex was its proximity to public transportation.
In more recent years, however, once-sleepy Downtown Brooklyn and the Flatbush Avenue corridor have experienced a sea change and the area is unrecognizable from even just a decade ago. As a result, MetroTech, has made considerable attempts to shake off its insulated, ghostly reputation and appeal to more diversified tenants while better integrating into its quickly changing surroundings through public realm improvements and repositioning itself as a lively, centrally located civic hub. (The tenant mix has indeed switched-up in recent years and now includes media companies, maker spaces, and the corporate offices for a major 3D printer manufacturer.)
The formal name change and $50 million investment marks the most significant move to date in the property’s transition into a self-described “vibrant campus in the heart of Downtown for business, education, dining and year-round public programming for the community.”
“Downtown Brooklyn has rapidly transformed into a thriving commercial and residential district, and we are proud to lead the charge in reimagining Brooklyn Commons as a vibrant hub for business, education, art, culture, and community,” said Callie Haines, Executive Vice President and Head of New York, Brookfield Properties, in a statement. “Embracing and building upon the area’s momentous growth, we are repositioning Brooklyn Commons as an integrated, open campus for the 21st century.”
In addition to the revamps of three key buildings and Brooklyn Commons Park, Brookfield will also launch a robust slate of community-focused arts and cultural programming for the new campus through its Arts Brookfield program. Per the press announcement, events and activities, many of which have been happening prior to the rebrand, will include theater performances, outdoor film screenings, live music, holiday events, food festivals, a pop-up ice-skating rink, free exercise classes, and more.
One question remains: With MetroTech now Brooklyn Commons, will the nearby Jay Street–MetroTech subway station, which was known as Jay Street-Borough Hall station up until 2010 when two adjacent stations were combined via tunnel and the resultant new complex was renamed, be renamed again or retain its current moniker?