A change may be coming to the heart of Central Brooklyn: The historic Restoration Plaza is set to be torn down and rebuilt as a brand-new business, art, and tech hub.

A multi-million-dollar rebuilding of the one-time Bed Stuy HQ of community stalwarts like Rabbi Bill Tate and Sonny Abubadika Carson and his Committee to Honor Black Heroes has been announced by the site’s landlord, the Restoration Corporation.

“Central Brooklyn is a microcosm of racial inequities reflected nationwide across our cities,” said Blondel Pinnock, president and CEO of Restoration Corporation. She told the Amsterdam News, “With its focus on Black wealth creation, the Innovation Campus offers a new, replicable model for closing the wealth gap in communities across the United States.” 

The vision, Restoration says, is to use the 840,000-square-foot space to “enable Restoration to meet the needs of the community today. It includes a major expansion of Restoration’s cultural center and the Billie Holiday Theatre, new public open space, and two commercial buildings that will provide world-class new offices for both current tenants and private, nonprofit, and government partners committed to disrupting the racial wealth gap. The mixed-use vision would expand Restoration’s innovative direct services model, comprising a set of economic mobility and arts education programs [that] today provide critical resources to more than 60,000 Central Brooklyn residents. New space would be used to scale programs such as the Restoration Software Engineering Fellowship in partnership with the Marcy Lab School, and to foster similar programs with other companies invested in advancing skills training and job placement for local residents in high-growth sectors.”
Apparently Brooklynite and Mayor Eric Adams is a fan of the plan, too.“Restoration Innovation Campus is a project unlike any other, providing a scalable model for public and private partners to disrupt the racial wealth gap,” he said. “This visionary proposal will address a generational crisis and meet the needs of Brooklyn residents today by creating new pathways to economic mobility in the communities that need them most…I look forward to helping usher in this historic next chapter for the organization and the community.” 

Marlon Rice, director of event services, Asset Management Division, is a longtime Bed Stuy resident who grew up three blocks from Restoration Plaza. “I think the plans for Restoration’s new campus are inspiring and frankly much needed,” he said. “The Plaza has always been and is to this day a beloved gathering place for the community. Now, with the plan that Restoration has proposed, the community will get the 21st-century plaza that Central Brooklyn has long deserved, including modern space that enhances the critical cultural and financial programs Restoration currently provides, and additional space to expand a new model for generating economic opportunity and wealth creation here in the community. The widening racial wealth gap is a generational crisis and the Restoration Innovation Campus provides an exciting new model to disrupt it right here in Brooklyn.”

Once a milk bottling plant, Bedford Stuyvesant’s unofficial town hall or village square opened in 1972, in then one of the country’s largest African American communities. Currently, the community and cultural hub with the supermarket, restaurant, art gallery, and educational facilities draws more than 1.5 million visits per year. 

“For 55 years, Restoration has helped lift thousands of local residents out of poverty and created countless opportunities right here in our community,” Pinnock told the Amsterdam News. “Now, the nation’s staggering racial wealth gap requires a bold, new approach—to harness Brooklyn’s economic growth to support wealth creation for our neighbors, particularly longtime residents and people of color. We look forward to working with local elected leaders and the residents we’ve proudly served for generations to realize this critical vision.”

RELATED: VP Harris, Adams visit Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy to promote small business

In 1967, after the Democrats, with Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the Republicans, with Sen. Jacob Javits, acquired the land under special conditions with government help, along with banks and corporations, they formed a board. They got some Black community folk involved, and after political and socio-economic to-ing and fro-ing, they planned to establish Restoration. Expectations were that the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation would become the “nation’s first community development corporation.” 

Restoration Plaza was built to “serve as a catalytic engine for economic and cultural change in a neighborhood plagued by divestment. But the needs it was built to address—including delivering basic infrastructure—have changed dramatically as Central Brooklyn has become a national epicenter of gentrification.”

Last month, developers revealed sketches and plans to reimagine the Fulton Street/Harriet Ross Tubman Avenue block as home to the “Restoration Innovation Campus, a global hub dedicated to closing Brooklyn’s racial wealth gap.”

Selected to bring the plan to fruition is architect Sir David Adjaye, designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. His mission is to incorporate the Restoration’s mission and resident feedback “gathered in a community visioning process in 2019. There, they announced four top priorities emerged: (1) increasing the visibility of the arts programs; (2) expanding job and educational opportunities; (3) improving the open space; and (4) bringing in mission-aligned retail.” 

“The design of Innovation Campus taps into Bed-Stuy’s vibrant culture to create a place-based model to disrupt the racial wealth gap,” said Adjaye. “Based on extensive community engagement sessions, the design scheme prioritizes the public realm and ensures dedicated space for collaboration between mission aligned partners. We look forward to seeing the campus become a reality and model for others as Restoration moves the transformative plan forward.”

Restoration has always been so much more than a community meeting space. It has provided resources and exposure for art, entertainment, free tax preparation, education, grassroots rallies, and offices for assembly and City Council members. For five decades, thousands upon thousands of Bed Stuy residents and others have regularly used this site for a variety of resources. 

Generations of family members know Restoration as the heartbeat of the community: from the old Pathmark to great annual residential events, from art at the Skylight Gallery to mega stars and up-and-coming actors and poets, dancers, and singers at the Billie Holiday Theater. Money matters are handled at Carver, Citi, and Chase banks; hundreds learn about life and lessons at Mama Fela Barcliff’s Little Sun People school and New Rochelle college; community news is reported from the Daily Challenge newspaper; bills were paid at the always-busy old Con Ed offices; and the Avenue women’s clothing store closed after the last renovation in 2011. Now Moshood Creations draws a whole other culturally focused fashion conscious clientele. There have been Restoration Rocks with musical greats like Big Daddy Kane and Les Nubians; hundreds of soul, reggae, and hip hop shows; R&B, Under Da Tent Caribbean music and comedy.

Restoration is attempting to allay any fears that longtime residents are not intended to be the beneficiaries of all this new development. They said in a statement, “Innovation Campus is Restoration’s direct response to America’s ever-growing racial wealth gap, a national crisis for cities across the country. Black households in the U.S. have a median net worth of $24,000 compared to $188,000 for white households. In Brooklyn alone, the racial wealth gap is between $40 and $50 billion—and widening amid a pandemic that was devastating to Black and brown businesses and neighborhoods.” 

According to Restoration, they serve more than 60,000 people annually “as an advocate, coalition-builder, and direct service provider with a focus on the predominantly Black, brown, and low-income communities of Central Brooklyn.”

Meanwhile, Bed Stuy residents first heard rumblings of change about 10 to15 years ago, when the neighborhood saw a significant and dramatic change, new stores and produce, new infrastructure, new schools, new condominiums—a new wave of people. New rents. Increased house prices.

Bed Stuy has changed a lot in the last two decades. With gentrification an obvious reality, residents have witnessed a marked change with the influx of a white demographic in the traditionally Black neighborhood. Some Brooklyn observers said they fear that this change to Restoration will be a clarion call for the strip going the way of Harlem’s 125th Street and the surrounding Uptown neighborhood.

“Despite Brooklyn’s exponential growth over the past 20 years, longtime residents and people of color have largely been excluded from the borough’s economic success,” said the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. “Restoration’s mission is to relentlessly pursue strategies to close gaps in family and community wealth to ensure all families in Central Brooklyn are prosperous and healthy.”

“There is no better place to begin disrupting the racial wealth than Central Brooklyn,” said Colvin Grannum, senior advisor and longtime former president of Restoration. “While Bed Stuy has long served as one of the cradles of African American culture, it is also a testament to the systemic obstacles Black Americans face nationwide. With Innovation Campus, we’re shining a spotlight on the rising racial wealth gap, and offering a replicable, self-funding model for Black communities across the country to close the gap and build wealth locally.”

But the reality is, with the tearing down and rebuilding of half-a-century old buildings will probably mean at least five years of commotion and chaos.

Most residents and business people who spoke with the Amsterdam News seemed lukewarm to the idea of demolishing of an entire city block, but do not dislike the idea of a new cultural art museum and two 13-story commercial, educational, tech, business, and not-for-profit towers. 

One such resident told the paper, “Absolutely it is going to be an eyesore, but you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs. Redevelopment is always problematic in NYC. [We] are hoping the end result will be worth all the displacement and inconvenience.” 

There have been public conversations and hearings. The land is reportedly to be leased to the developers by the Restoration Corporation. Barring an outcry, this change is scheduled to be definite.

“Why don’t they just landmark the building?” a local resident and Amsterdam News reader offered. “It is still not a done deal, depending upon the outcry of elected officials, backed by the community.”The Amsterdam News reached out to Assemblywoman Stefani Zinerman, State Senator Jabari Brisport, and City Councilmember Chi Osse for comment about the reconstruction, but did not hear back by press time.

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  1. How we run them take the historical location and destroy it it ain’t going to bring any wealth to us they never bring it’s not for the benefit of us it is for them and I am talking about Caucasian people what is wrong with everybody why are we buying stuff up they are pushing us out don’t trust in the same person who put you in bondage no matter how much you really believe that you are free okay

  2. Hetepu: There is a Cultural Economic Holistic Agenda emerging that will elevate the consciousness of Ebony Spirits who are resonating with the major planetary transition into to new age and the opportunities they offer the world.
    Projects of this magnitude must incorporate the SPIRIT of such a MOVEMENT that is rooted in the ARTS. This is and always has been the currency of our ancestors that are supporting our evolution and will continue to do so for generations to come. By the next decade, this will all unfold and will align with this vision shared on 3/6/2023 Tuau!

  3. I grew up a block away on fulton st. My mom use to send me to Sheffield Dairy for milk eggs butter. That building holds memories for me. Sad to see it torn down for glass &steel.

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