Kenneth Park Architects

KPA Presents Street Evolution: Dumbo

Street Evolution: Dumbo

Spacious lofts, huge industrial buildings, pop-up shops and trendy art galleries, DUMBO is the place to be.  The name is an abbreviation for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass– a name made up in 1978 by resident artists to deter people from looking for real estate.  DUMBO, a space once littered with factories and industrial buildings, has now been converted into lofts, old warehouses, and theaters.  It is one of New York’s most visited spaces for leisure and entertainment.

“The Walled City”

The coastline of DUMBO is lined with brick industrial buildings earning it the nickname,  “The Walled City”.  It was also known as Rapaillie, Olympia, and Walentasville.  “In the 1890s, the western portion of the neighborhood was known as Fulton Landing, after the ferry stop that connected it to Manhattan before the Brooklyn Bridge opened.  At that time, it was primarily a manufacturing district, with warehouses and factories that made machinery, paper boxes, and Brillo soap pads.”


DUMBO: The Place of art, business, and Leisure.

By the beginning of the 1970’s, New York experienced deindustrialization and young artists moved into the large loft spaces, redesigning them for work and comfort.  Gentrification soon overtook DUMBO towards the end of the20th century forcing an increase in facilities that would develop Dumbo into a true arts community.   Visual artist, Joy Glidden used art as a catalyst for change by helping to develop the DUMBO Arts Center.  The initial goal was to focus on the arts community and bring awareness to what was happening in the space.  This eventually flourished into other endeavors which involved refurbishing DUMBO’S urban landscape.  The DUMBO Arts Center organized The DUMBO Art Under The Bridge Festival.  The DAC developed a relationship with a real estate firm by the name Two Tree Management.  Together,  the entities collaborated and used DUMBO’s urban personality as the backdrop for creative events and exhibitions.  Warehouses on Front Street were transformed into galleries and the waterfront property set the scene for photoshoots.


DUMBO today

DUMBO has been granted landmark status via the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  “According to the LPC, the DUMBO area was “essential to Brooklyn’s rise as a major American industrial center and was home to some of the most important industrial firms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century America.”   DUMBO continues to thrive as the place for private art galleries and experiential design exhibitions.  Several new mixed-use projects have sprung up in the last year on Jay, Front and York Street.  Residential and work buildings with luxury amenities tower above the borough, redefining the landscape in a way many didn’t deem possible years ago.  Each day, thousands of people make DUMBO the place where they can freely live, work and play.

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