I never played any of the original Pokemon games, but I do love maps and augmented reality, so I decided to give Pokemon Go a shot. SPOILER ALERT: It is delightful. So like everyone else, I’ve spent the last few days wandering around the neighborhood capturing imaginary two-headed emus.
The game asks you to locate real-life landmarks, or Pokéstops, but because new development is sweeping Brooklyn, a lot of the digital landmarks featured in the game aren’t actually there anymore. In fact, most of the Pokestops within a five minute walk of my apartment on South 5th street and Wythe have already been gentrified out of the neighborhood — but in almost every case, the change has been an unequivocal improvement over the South Williamsburg you see in Pokemon Go pictures from a year or two ago.
Here, a Pokéstop tour of Williamsburg before and after the developers came:
Pokéstop: The North Brooklyn Bike Park located between Kent and Wythe at South 3rd Street. This was pretty awesome, but it’s across the street now, so no big loss.
Now: The first building in Two Trees’ Domino Sugar redevelopment is under construction. It will bring 570 desperately needed housing units to a former brownfield site that had been occupied by a temporary park. Two Trees has moved the BMX track and North Brooklyn farms across Kent to a waterfront location.
Pokéstop: Lumber City was one of several low-density warehouses on Metropolitan between Wythe and Berry. While it had an OK painting, the steel security grates presented a cold face to the street, particularly at night. It’s unclear if the warehouse space was in active use, derelict, or just cultivating an abandon aesthetic.
Now: Most of the single-story block was demolished for a new apartment building that’s under construction, while one warehouse was converted into a hot yoga studio. Retail space + housing > a warehouse full of lumber.
Pokéstop: The intersection of Broadway and South 6th is one of the iconicBrooklyn vistas. In the Brooklyn of Pokemon Go, it was a stark white mural with some letters at the top fronted by an unmaintained surface parking lot.
Now: The mural was updated about a year ago, and I personally like it a bit more. However, the real news is that the derelict parking lot has been cleaned up, enclosed and put up for sale. Hopefully we get a nice diner or bar on the site!
Pokéstop: Dripping color mural.
Now: Dripping color mural is still there. Though the building has seen several tenants turnover over the last two years.
Pokéstop: This empty building had a cheerful mural painted across the front.
Now: The murals are gone and the building, along with a vacant adjacent lot, have been redeveloped into housing. The facade of the building was preserved and enhanced with a new and improved mural.
Pokéstop: This graffiti was on the side of a warehouse north of Grand on Wythe.
Now: The Red Devil has been painted over by the kind of cheerless spoilsports who think “clean” grey walls are preferable to street art, but the good news is the warehouse isn’t long for this world. The site was sold for $27 million and permits have been filed to replace the light industrial facility with a 6-story apartment building, bringing more density and housing to the neighborhood.
Pokéstop: An ad for the restaurant Fatty Cue. According to NY Magazine, it wasn’t good.
Now: Loosie Rouge combines what Eater calls the best bar in Williamsburg with a small-plates Creole restaurant with an outdoor dinning room. I don’t care for small plates or Creole food, but this place is really tremendous.
Pokéstop: A very cool giant eye mural on South Fifth and Berry.
Now: The Williamsberry, while not quite as visually stimulating as the giant eye mural, will bring 60 new housing units to huge empty warehouse when it is finished later this year. If our current zoning allowed for construction of buildings the size of 338 Berry in the neighborhood today, we wouldn’t have a housing crisis in New York. Hopefully they put a billboard on the side of the townhouse. It will always be visible thanks to Brooklyn’s parking requirements.
Pokéstop: A metal elephant sculpture under the stairs outside Brooklyn Denim Co at North Third and Wythe.
Now: Construction fencing went up a few weeks ago and the statue is gone. Hopefully it makes a triumphant return since it was pretty awesome.
Pokéstop: A painted boulder between warehouses at North Fifth and Wythe.
Now: Construction crews are putting the final touches on a half-block apartment building. As always, housing hundreds of people in a seven-story building is a better use of land than a pair of small warehouses and a large painted rock.
Pokéstop: Yarn-based graffiti that said “Magic.” It was cool at first, but it didn’t weather well and you got the sense it was rotting.
Now: The south tower of Two Trees’ first Domino Sugar building. At the time of this photo, it was 12 stories tall and will eventually hit 16 stories, at which point it will link with the north tower to form a donut shape.
Pokéstop: Wild Side Girls mural behind an incorrectly identified “fridge cemetery.” It’s not a cemetery, it’s a functioning business.
Now: The mural is gone. JP’s Refrigeration Corp painted the building and expanded their storage capacity by parking a container on the lot. But JP and Co are still running a business selling very used refrigerators and other appliances along the public right-of-way. That’s worth remembering next time someone tries to tell you all the quirky mom & pop businesses have been priced out by chain stores.
Pokéstop: Angel and Baby Mural.
Now: The mural is still there, but a new theater has opened in the basement of the building. They’ve got a sign out in front now.
Pokémon Gym: Not even the local Pokemon Gym is safe. The former warehouse has been demolished. Activity on the site seems to have stalled, but plans call for housing.
This piece originally appeared on Medium.