The long-awaited grand opening of Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace kicked off last Friday, May 13. The mixed use residential and commercial community space is a long-awaited dream for local vendors and community leaders in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Mayor Eric Adams joined elected officials in cutting the ribbon for the building as steelpan performers and stilt walkers gathered to celebrate.

Urbane and BRP Companies, local Black-led design team and development teams, spent years bringing the $136 million development project to fruition. The marketplace is located on the ground floor of the 14-story, mixed-use building with 255 apartments that are “100% affordable housing.”

Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. said in a statement that building new affordable housing is a top priority for the agency. “The Flatbush Central Caribbean Market, now reopened on the ground floor, has been essential to the social fabric of this community for decades. Including the market in this project enhances a longtime anchor of this community and provides opportunities for culturally significant commerce and affordable housing for years to come,” said Carrion. “Welcome home to the new residents of Caton Flats and the entrepreneurs and small businesses who bring this market to life. And thank you to Urbane and BRP Companies for a job well done.”

Amenities also include space for food vendors, a shared commercial test kitchen, a bar, a lounge, long-time community entrepreneurs.

The development project was a collaborative vision of former Councilmember Dr. Una Clarke, the late Dr. Roy Hastick, HPD, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and dedicated community members looking to preserve Caribbean commerce in the neighborhood back in 2015.

“This is such a significant moment, this market and the spirit of Dr. Hastick who was a mentor and a friend. I can recall when he planted the seed of the concept of how we use this space, not to displace but to build up,” said Adams.

Vendor Rodrick Brown, who sells fresh fruits and vegetables, praised the temporary relocation space on Clarendon Road while the building was completed, and the business training and incubator programs that the marketplace provided for the entrepreneurs. The Mangrove accelerator is an economic mobility platform and small business program to promote the growth of new and existing small local businesses, specifically targeting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs.

One shopper commented that she could remember when the lot the building is currently built on, located at 2123 Caton Avenue, was an abandoned parking lot with mistreated vendors selling their wares to the community.

Councilmember Rita Joseph also remembered about 14 years ago when the merchants were in the parking lot. “I used to see how they were treated,” she said. “And I remember talking to Dr. Clarke about how we needed to make sure that the vendors had a place to build generational wealth.”

James Johnson-Piett, CEO of Urbane Development, said he was striving to create a place where development did not equal displacement when he took on the project. “I think for me it was learning how to become a steward for other people’s visions and integrating my own into it as well,” said Johnson-Piett. “The marketplace is one piece of it. The housing is something else, but really this is a complex for all things Caribbean.”

“We are so proud that you can be here today because this is a labor of love,” said Meredith Marshall, co-founder and managing partner of BRP Companies. “It took seven years for us to come full circle.”

Former Councilmember Mathieu Eugene said that he was blessed to have been a part of the project when he was on the city council. He was a strong supporter of the market and investing in capital to maintain the market as it was in the parking lot and the current mixed-use building, he said.

“I think this is a wonderful thing because so many people worked on this. And today we can be here together to celebrate and to cut the ribbon because this is a good asset for the community,” said Eugene.

Festivities raged throughout the weekend with live music, chef demos, food samplings, double-barrel rum tastings, and cooking classes held at the marketplace.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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