Pratt Center has worked to improve Fulton Street Mall's commercial strip while preserving its role as a vital public place.
Amidst the City's broad redevelopment plan for downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Mall: New Strategies for Preservation and Planning - a Pratt Center project and report - offered strategies for securing the future of Fulton Mall as a vital public place.
We brought historic preservation, urban planning, ethnography, community cultural development, and economic development strategies together, and coordinated them to identify economic opportunities, preserve the most important historical resources, and provide unique and useful retail for surrounding communities.
The Fulton Street Mall's old department store buildings, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were occupied by retail establishments on their ground floors and retained rich architectural details, but many upstairs floors were vacant and boarded up. Pratt Center's Fulton Mall project produced "preservation-oriented development" plans for several sites—financial models for the buildings' productive reuse and designs for commercial and residential spaces that built on the Mall's existing strengths.
The project sought to preserve more than the street's physical structures. Fulton Street Mall, Brooklyn's biggest retail district, was in a precarious moment, when in 2004, the Department of City Planning rezoned the surrounding area to promote the development of new office and retail space, which threatened historic buildings and small retail establishments alike. As surrounding neighborhoods became increasingly gentrified, interest grew in bringing new, higher-end stores to an area that had long been a retail and cultural destination for African American and Caribbean shoppers.
Pratt Center's planning and design work aimed to ensure that longtime Fulton Street shoppers got an improved commercial strip that served their needs and preserved Fulton Street Mall's role as a crossroads for Brooklynites from all over the borough. We also strove to assist small businesses, many run by immigrants, in remaining an essential part of the area's retail mix.
This project was launched with the generous support of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and the New York Community Trust and was a collaboration with Minerva Partners, a non-profit organization that works to forge links between heritage conservation and social development.