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Mixed-Use Development Provides Space to Live and Work for Caribbean-American Community in Brooklyn, New York

A 14-story, mixed-material building situated at a busy intersection.
A white concrete lobby with an attended reception desk and a green wall installation.
An inner courtyard with grass, paved walkways, saplings, and deck chairs.
An indoor marketplace with colorful banners and textiles.
A commercial kitchen with stainless steel stovetops, ovens, and work tables.


Home > Case Studies > Mixed-Use Development Provides Space to Live and Work for Caribbean-American Community in Brooklyn, New York


Mixed-Use Development Provides Space to Live and Work for Caribbean-American Community in Brooklyn, New York


Flatbush is a dynamic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, with approximately 173,000 residents as of 2021. Known as a hub for the city’s Caribbean community, the neighborhood is growing, with a population increase of 2.5 percent and roughly 3,300 new occupied housing units added during the 2010s. Rising rents in Flatbush, however, are increasing displacement, especially among Black residents. Real median gross rent in Flatbush/Midwood increased by 25.2 percent from 2006 to 2021, and central Brooklyn experienced some of New York City’s highest rates of eviction filings in 2022. The number of Black non-Hispanic residents fell 17.4 percent from 2010 to 2020. Local entrepreneurs also face challenges. Although the neighborhood offers a diverse mix of retail, new businesses struggle to keep up with high rents, and support services for new businesses are not always available in merchants’ native languages.

In this context, stakeholders sought to preserve and expand a longtime staple of the Caribbean community in Flatbush. The Flatbush Caton Market was founded in 2000 as an open-air market by then-city councilmember Una S.T. Clarke, who raised funds to construct a permanent home for vendors. The Flatbush Caton Market served as an operating space for more than 40 small businesses. In 2022, the marketplace officially reopened after several years of development as part of Caton Flats, a mixed-use project designed to both carry on the legacy of the original marketplace and add affordable housing and business incubator facilities to the community. The development provides 254 units of income-restricted housing and 20,000 square feet of community space, including upgraded retail space for vendors to build and grow their businesses.

The Road to Preservation

The Caton Flats project began in 2013, when the New York City Economic Development Corporation released a request for proposals for a developer to purchase, redevelop, and manage the Flatbush Caton Market. The city selected developers BRP Companies and Urbane, and predevelopment began in 2015. Members of the project team analyzed market conditions and engaged with residents, leaders, and local stakeholders to understand the community’s needs. According to James Johnson-Piett, chief executive officer of Urbane, the project aimed to preserve the existing marketplace while taking on "a reimagination of the facility to create more opportunities and economic mobility at large for the community."

In 2017, Urbane transitioned 38 legacy vendors to a temporary space located roughly 1 mile south of the site, where the vendors remained for 4 years. Urbane supported these legacy vendors with business training sessions in English and Haitian Creole, creating a zero-interest microloan fund and an online marketplace for vendors to sell their wares, and raised roughly $47,000 for the vendors through crowdfunding. Construction on Caton Flats formally began in 2019, and 29 of the original vendors returned to the completed marketplace, now known as Flatbush Central, in January 2022.

About the Development

Designed by Magnussen Architecture and Planning, Caton Flats is a 14-story building with 276,288 square feet of residential and commercial space. The residential portion of Caton Flats consists of 254 mixed-income apartments, including 64 studios and 97 one-bedroom, 53 two-bedroom, and 40 three-bedroom units. Twenty-seven units are reserved for households earning up to 40 percent of the area median income (AMI), 37 units are reserved for households making no more than 60 percent of AMI, 63 are for households earning no more than 110 percent of AMI, and the remaining 127 units are available to households earning up to 165 percent of AMI. In addition, 50 percent of the units are assigned with preference for residents of Brooklyn Community Board 14, which includes Flatbush, Midwood, and Kensington. Each unit has a dishwasher, microwave, and hardwood flooring. The building features an attended lobby, an outdoor terrace, a fitness center, onsite bike storage, electric car charging stations, and onsite parking and management as well as a communal roof terrace overlooking Prospect Park.

Helping Businesses Prepare for the Future

The new Flatbush Central marketplace includes 16,000 square feet of space for vendors and business incubation labs. The facility includes a renovated legacy Caribbean Marketplace with upgraded vendor space; a food hall and testing kitchen; and Mangrove FC, a business incubator and production space featuring a commercial kitchen, natural body care lab, and multimedia studio and classroom. Caton Flats is also home to the headquarters of the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

One goal of the project was to ensure that vendors from the original Flatbush Caton Market, many of whom are community elders, could remain in this changing neighborhood. The rent model for Food Hall businesses is revenue based, calculated as a percentage of each month’s sales rather than being a fixed monthly payment, and legacy vendors can qualify for rent-controlled contracts. Part of this work involved developing resources such as the Mangrove FC Platform — an economic mobility and business incubator program that provides business owners with technical assistance, business training, and access to capital — to build resilient businesses that can thrive and last for generations.


Construction costs for Caton Flats totaled $133.9 million. Caton Flats was financed through $60.6 million in city-issued bonds, a $15 million second mortgage from the New York City Housing Development Corporation, and a $29.4 million third mortgage from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Table 1: Financing for Caton Flats

City-issued tax-exempt bonds $60,600,000
New York City Housing Development Corporation second mortgage 15,000,000
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development third mortgage 29,400,000
Fourth mortgage 12,500,000
Developer equity 10,000,000
Grants from city legislature and Brooklyn borough president discretionary funds 6,400,000
Total $133,900,000

Laying Roots in a Changing Neighborhood

The Urban Land Institute recognized Caton Flats with a Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award in 2023, and the development has made waves in the neighborhood. Caton Flats received nearly 51,500 applications in its first annual lottery through New York City Housing Connect, and the mixed-use development has been lauded as a valuable resource for Caribbean-American entrepreneurs and residents in the neighborhood.

This article was written by Sage Computing, Inc, under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.