Tucked inside a densely industrial corner of East Williamsburg, there’s a not-so-easy to find new “cultural space” called 99 Scott. With a name like that, not even newbs, or those not yet acquainted with the neighborhood’s winding corridors and sharp triangular street-traps, should have a hard time finding the space. On a dead-end industrial street where garbage trucks and cement mixers outnumber humans, sits a newly renovated, sparkly building occupied by a swarm of new tenants–99 Scott included– who make up one of the most sophisticated and concrete examples of the push toward light-industry happening across Brooklyn.
Molly McIver and Wells Stellberger, the co-founders of 99 Scott, are rooted in the art and fashion industries, respectively– Molly has worked with Frieze art fair, and Wells previously worked at Marc Jacobs. Together, they shared an interest in what Molly calls “hybrid events.” That means some mix of art, fashion, food, and music– sometimes all four. And so they’re pitching the new space as a “blank canvas” of sorts.
When people talk about 2008, the year that Roberta’s started firing pizzas, as the “early days,” you know for sure that we’ve reached a whole new level of neighborhood transformation, gentrification, what have you. But that’s exactly when Molly, a native New Yorker, started hanging out in this little corner of “Bushwick” (er, not actually Bushwick), just north of the Flushing Avenue border with East Williamsburg. “I was going there early on to artist studios and stuff, I work with Frieze so I went to all the art stuff out there and to eat at Roberta’s, but also there are just people living there that I’m close with,” she said.
But it was really the space that convinced Molly to take the plunge. With 20-foot-high ceilings and windows that are almost just as tall, natural light fills the space. “Which is ideal from an art perspective,” she said. There’s an enormous yard too, a 10,000 square foot space which is currently being transformed into a landscaped garden. During my visit, it took me a minute to recognize the space as the former location of Brooklyn Mirage– the controversial pop-up club operated by City Fox, the same party promoters who came close to holding a Halloween rave inside a superfund site before the Fire Department shut it down.
But the resemblance is very slight. Molly and Wells have undertaken an intensive renovation. They’ve installed a 1,500-square-foot kitchen and even went to the trouble of carving out a basement. “It ended up being a colossal project,” Molly laughed. And it’s not quite done yet. However, despite all the changes, the industrial vibes have remained intact. “We wanted to maintain the integrity of the space but make it extremely functional for people to come in and do creative projects there,” she said. “The only downside is that it might be too big for some things.”
She seemed eager to show off 99 Scott when the weather gets warmer (seriously, don’t start counting the days just yet). “But you could really do anything in there, you could easily do a fashion presentation, you could do a concert, you could do any number of things,” she said. “Because the space is big enough, indoor and outdoor, to hold all those things, but it’s also elegant enough to be a beautiful backdrop.”
That same sort of devotion to the space is mirrored in the fact that Molly and Wells say they aren’t renting out the space to just anybody. “We are selective in that we only do things that are interesting for us,” she said. So far, they’ve hosted a natural wine fair, and on January 7, Cinema 16 will bring Blonde Redhead to the space for the first of one of those “hybrid” events Molly referred to.
Slowly, that whole portion of the block is coming to life and when it’s finished, this corner of the neighborhood will have itself an uber-hip, and admittedly pretty freakin’ fancy mini-mall of sorts, which is clearly aimed at serving Bushwick’s new, more well-heeled residents in addition to cultural consumers from Manhattan and beyond.
I wondered if 99 Scott was tailored to an existing community or if it is trying to galvanize a completely new scene inside a cluster of neighborhoods that already has so many. “Those communities already exist, it’s just about bringing them together into a space,” Molly said. “I’m just hoping that each time they come, they learn something new, that they experience some culture that they wouldn’t expect to find in the depths of East Williamsburg or Bushwick.”
The other tenants, which Molly referred to as the existing “bedrock community,” includes Enlightenment Wines. Specializing in mead and natural wine, the company opened up its own tasting room called Honey’s back in August. It’s a place where guests can come to shop and to play ancient druids and sip the fermented honey beverages and special cocktails on offer.
In addition to the mead makers, there’s a “mushroom growing facility” and architecture office, and a new location for Bunker, the Vietnamese restaurant that got its start inside a tiny, hut-like space in an area that most people refer to as “out past Pumps” (it’s really just called Maspeth, guys). There’s another space reserved for a futuristic-sounding design operation, the project of three “fashion guys,” as Molly called them, each of them specializing in a particular design-meets-fashion niche. “One guy builds super intricate bikes, and I think the other guy makes sheaths for knives,” she said.
Together, they’re part of a new wave of post-industrial industry in the area, one that people predicted a while ago would arrive, and displace heavy, job-creating manufacturing in the process. That remains to be seen, but whatever the case, 99 Scott and their neighbors are a whisper-quiet contrast to the manufacturing bustle and industrial noise that surrounds them. And while the place will only come alive for a variety of ticketed events and otherwise function as a private office, that slight feeling of exclusivity might read as neutral for the community compared to a place like Brooklyn Mirage.
“We’re not looking to be a club venue, by any stretch of the imagination,” Molly said. “There’s plenty of that out there already.”
Correction: This article has been updated to correct co-founder Molly McIver’s last name.