Today marks the grand opening for New Lab, in Brooklyn, New York. The 84,000-square-foot facility is an amalgamation of things many cities are vying for these days: a co-working space for high-tech companies; fabrication and prototyping shops stocked with 3D printers, CNC-milling machines and lathes, a laser cutter, and welding equipment, in addition to a spray room; and a gathering space to host workshops, seminars, and presentations for occupants as well as the public.
Navigating to New Lab through the maze of industrial infrastructure of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY) is like a walk through time. One can imagine the 300-acre site during its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, teeming with up to 70,000 workers building the ships that would carry members of the U.S. military worldwide. Now steady development and construction activity is converting the shipyard into a hub of modern manufacturing and business.
Situated near the center of BNY, New Lab is one of four tenants in the 220,000-square-foot Green Manufacturing Center, which combines three former ship-building machine shops that had sat unused for decades. In 2011, then-Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp. (BNYDC) president Andrew Kimball showed the 51,000-square-foot Building 128 to real estate developer David Belt, who then brought along artist and entrepreneur Scott Cohen to discuss the potential of the carcass of rusted metal, broken glass, and looming steel gantries.
Following an extensive renovation involving many public and private players, including BNYDC, New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC), Marvel Architects, Belt’s development company, Macro Sea, and Belt’s management company, DBI Projects, the retrofitted 84,000-square-foot New Lab has room for more than 400 people and 50 companies.
But not anyone can get a foothold in the door. “New Lab was built specifically to support entrepreneurs and companies working in advanced technologies,” Belt says. “We know we can fill it up [but we want to ensure] that we’re staying true to the vision that we had for the space, and to fill it up with companies that are working in hardware, robotics, artificial intelligence, energy, nanotechnology, and urban technology; or that are thought leaders that will be helpful to our community.”
To date, 41 companies of 280 applicants have been accepted into New Lab, which translates into 230 people filling the array of work environments that include dedicated, semi-private workstations, shared 300- to 1,000-square-foot studios, and private studios upward of 8,000 square feet. Members also have access to a 4,500-square-foot event space, conference rooms, and breakout spaces.
Belt says that he and Cohen turn to industry experts to vet each prospective tenant to determine whether the “team knows what they’re doing, or is a safe, good bet.” New Lab is open to entrepreneurs and companies at various stages of the business lifecycle and fundraising (it does not make investments in its member companies). Belt says the lab wants “people who can execute [their ideas] and who can also bring their expertise to the community.”
New Lab is also for the committed. The minimum lease term is a year, even for the desk clusters; larger spaces command longer commitments. Nanotronics Imaging, Honeybee Robotics, and StrongArm Technologies have six-year commitments, for example. New Lab also offers annual residencies to companies involved in clean technologies and smart cities research, as part of NYCEDC’s UrbanTech NYC program.
New Lab’s founders think the center can distinguish itself from other tech-focused co-working spaces. Beyond the millions of dollars of prototyping equipment available to its members, which includes a 6-foot-square 3D printer by Berlin company BigRep, Belt says New Lab will “have staff that helps people with product realization that can take an idea from a napkin sketch to an actual product.”
Moreover, he adds, the decision to focus specifically on the disciplines within advanced technology is “a big differentiation and that’s a bit of a gamble because we’ve limited ourselves, but if it works, it’ll really be powerful.”