By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Just when you thought that the wave of impressive new businesses coming to the Fulton Mall — H&M, Shake Shack, the Gap, Aéropostale and Express — couldn’t get any bolder, Century 21 announced yesterday that it would be a part of the planned City Point development at Fulton Street and Albee Square.
The store, which is being enthusiastically received by observers of the Downtown scene, is scheduled to open when the second phase of City Point construction is completed in 2015. Many Brooklynites are familiar with Century 21’s other store in the borough, on 86th Street in Bay Ridge, and the location on Cortland Street in Lower Manhattan.
"Every retailer in America realizes they have to be here in Brooklyn," Kenneth Bernstein, president and CEO of one of City Point's developers, Acadia Realty Trust, told dignitaries assembled at the site on Wednesday. "Century 21 will bring a new level of sophistication" to the Fulton Mall.
"Yesterday, Barbra Streisand, and today, Century 21," crowed Borough President Marty Markowitz, referring to the announcement of Streisand's homecoming concert at Barclays Center. "It goes back to what the Honeymooners used to say: 'How sweet it is.'"
The arrival of high-profile national chains is the latest step in the evolution of the Fulton Mall. As recently as five years ago, the outdoor mall was dominated by low-end bargain stores, with Macy’s (formerly Abraham & Straus) virtually the only mid-range store and the only large department store. Fulton Street's previous incarnation, as a premier middle-class shopping venue, came to an end in the 1960s.
Markowitz recalled that when he was a child in the 1950s, "every Brooklynite shopped Fulton Street."
"My mom, my sisters and I were poorer, so we went to E.J. Korvette or Mays," he said. "Those who had a little more money in their pocket went to Abraham & Straus or Martin's. One way my mother got me down here was to take me to Chock full o'Nuts or Nedick's — and one look at me, you know that I visited Junior's more often than I care to admit."
Tim King, managing partner of CPEX Real Estate on Willoughby Street, called Century 21 and the other new retailers “high-value, mid-range-point stores.” He said Century 21 is “a superb retailer that will be a valuable addition” to the mall.
Several factors were driving changes on Fulton Street, King said, including the addition of thousands of new housing units and the increasing number of students in Downtown. Fulton Mall shoppers in the future, he said, will be a mix of tourists, students, office workers and nearby residents.
Acadia spokesman Tom Montvel-Cohen called Century 21 “a store that cuts across demographic lines.”
Chris Havens, chief executive of the Creative Real Estate Group in Downtown, said "it broadens the customer base."
"Century 21 will attract all types of shoppers," Havens said. "It’s such a well-known brand in New York City. It’s also important because the eastern part of the Fulton Mall [where City Point will rise] is not as strong as the western part.”
Joshua Muss, principal of Muss Development LLC, the developer of the New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge and the nearby “restaurant row,” said, "We never had any doubt that Downtown Brooklyn would flourish, and City Point is yet one more example of great things to come. Downtown Brooklyn has become one of New York's greatest places to live, work, dine and shop."
Rick Russo, interim president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, “Century 21 is a Brooklyn tradition, and this exciting announcement continues the exciting trend of Brooklyn’s booming retail scene. The store strikes a perfect medium with quality merchandise at bargain prices.”
City Point’s first phase, a retail building known as One DeKalb Avenue, has already been constructed. The second phase is slated to include two apartment buildings to be constructed above a five-story retail podium.