Atlantic Avenue (and Downtown Brooklyn) tour
The retail, office, hotel, and institutional heart of Brooklyn, near so much, with history and modernity intertwined.
Historic Atlantic Avenue, the spine between Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn and Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill, makes an interesting tour, going roughly from Atlantic Terminal to the waterfront. The route takes 90 minutes or so, and we can easily add it on to Brooklyn 101, or just Brooklyn Heights, or Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens. Or we can add other parts of Downtown Brooklyn, like Fulton Street and the new development stretching north along arteries like Schermerhorn Street and Flatbush Avenue.
Atlantic Avenue, with charming 19th-century buildings and churches, and signs of Brooklyn's 20th century growth, is not primarily a residential district. But it does complement the Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods abutting it, while offering a plethora of places to shop and eat. Special zoning maintains the character of the street, while chic new shops have proliferated, replacing some of the less flashy antiques district.
A zone just west of Court Street serves as a longstanding Middle Eastern shopping (and eating) district, anchored by Sahadi's, the "Zabar's" of Brooklyn. Atlantic Avenue also houses perhaps the world's most spectacular Trader Joe's: a former bank.
Also, adjacent Downtown Brooklyn, which has its retail, residential (an enormous surge recently), government, institutional, and office components, has undergone--and is undergoing--dramatic change. The pedestrian- and bus-only Fulton Mall maintains a balance between old school retail and shiny new entries.
New residential towers and hotels have proliferated, a surprising--and in some ways confounding--detour from a rezoning justified by a perceived need for office space. More recently, dormant floors of older buildings are being revamped for office space. And the 1980s/90s major office development, Metro Tech, stands as an urban enclave, both a pleasant gathering place in good weather and a sign of the "defensive space" esthetics of its time.
Downtown Brooklyn houses one of the city's under-appreciated great museums; the New York Transit Museum, located in an old subway stop. Not only is the legendary deli/diner Junior's (famous for cheesecake but serving much more) at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, a block away is the new food magnet for the neighborhood: DeKalb Market Hall, which has dozens of local vendors, mostly Brooklyn-based (Ample Hills Ice Cream, BK Jani, Bunker Vietnamese), plus the only outpost of Katz's Deli, called A Taste of Katz's.
Distance from Midtown Manhattan: 25-30 minutes by subway
Basic tour length: 2.5 hours (see fees)
Starting place: Varies
Ending place: Varies
Highlights: History, architecture, shopping, food
Option before/after tour: Snack/meal on Atlantic Avenue, in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Fort Greene. Visit to New York Transit Museum.
Potential tour combinations/extensions with me: Brooklyn 101, Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, DUMBO & Brooklyn Heights, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center
Why I like leading this tour: Atlantic Avenue is a crucial, historic artery & Downtown Brooklyn has changed remarkably--and I've watched it happen in recent years.