Venue #1: The Green Building on Union

I have actually long-admired this green warehouse building on Union Street in Brooklyn, overlooking the Gowanus. As I wrote in an email to a friend the other day, what could be better than pledging our eternal love and starting a life together on the shores of Brooklyn’s most recently designated superfund site? SuperFUN is more like it!

All joking aside, I really do have a soft spot for the Gowanus, and I have a tremendous soft spot for industrial spaces, and I really have admired this building since I first laid eyes on it, so I was intrigued and excited when I learned that it had become an event space. I actually learned this via another mailing list that I am on — Michael Aranella’s Dreamland Orchestra has participated in some amazing sounding events in the space, but I have not yet been able to attend. Needless to say, this space shot to the top of my venue list when I got engaged, and I enjoyed the opportunity to check it out.

Though this place is still a possibility for us, there were some issues that took it down a few notches when we saw it in person. For starters, their event manager booked us to see the space at the same time as another couple. I actually thought this was great — we were able to hear and to build on each other’s questions — but it as clearly not intended to be a double booking (the event lady was surprised that we were all there and asked, wide eyed, if she’d scheduled us for the same time), and the scheduling snafu and resulting confusion didn’t instill a ton of confidence, especially in light of this place’s quirks, which I’ll get to below.

Location: Union Street at Bond, Brooklyn. This building is right on the Gowanus Canal. If you want a neighborhood that looks more upscale, this is not your spot. If you are OK (or, like Shawn and me, kind of excited) for an ever-so-slightly gritty area, go for it. The building is a block away from the M & R trains at Fourth Avenue, there’s a Holiday Inn Express easy walking distance for out-of-towners who like that sort of thing, and it is smack dab between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope and all the great bars, restaurants, trains, busses, shops, etc. that those neighborhoods have to offer.

Quality of Space: The indoor space is stunning. It has a raw, sparse aesthetic that looks beautiful even without the addition of extra decorations. Some of the sofas are a little on the dingy side, but, honestly, the chandeliers are on a dimmer, and, with the lights down a bit, the space becomes soft and romantic, and even the uglier couches become cozy and inviting. Oh the miracles of lighting. The site says that they have an outdoor space as well, but this is really a parking lot that is leased out to someone else. It can probably be rented for an additional, fairly low fee, but it’s not a sure thing, and it’s not pretty.

Cost: Tamar quoted me a price of $3,500 for a wedding. She was not specific about exact number of hours included in this — she was very laid back and nice, and it seemed like there was some flexibility here.

What’s Included: The space has some 6 foot tables, some kind of weird smaller tables, a whole lot of folding chairs (I was told 80), couches, some cushy seats, room dividers, a sideboard, 2 bars that can be combined into one, and maybe some other furniture I’m forgetting. Everything can be included or moved out according to the event. The venue also throws in candles and a PA system that can be used by a DJ or an iPod.

Catering Requirements: If you are having a Jewish wedding, your catering needs to be Kosher. If you are not having a Jewish wedding, there are no restrictions. Caterers need to have their own insurance. If you are not hiring a caterer, but, as we hope to do, providing the food yourself, there are no restrictions. There’s no liquor license, so no selling booze on the premises, but you can bring it in and serve it for sure.

Bathroom Situation: There are 2 bathrooms — one for men, one for women, though they can be combined if ladies don’t mind sneaking a peak at the urinal (Tamar said it could be draped, but I don’t much see the point of this).

What You Wouldn’t Know from Their Website: Hands down, the most important and salient detail that is not apparent from their website is that this building is used as a synagogue every week. This means that it is NOT AVAILABLE from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. Saturday events must take place after 8:30pm, and set-up can’t really happen during the day. As a workaround, Tamar pointed out that we could come in early — up to 48 hours early — to set up the space ahead of time. The space will be used in the interim by a religious community of respectful adults who, she assured us, would not mess it up. Caterers may come in and start setting up before sundown on Saturday as they will be in a separate space and will presumably not disrupt services. Now, we’re not totally sure what kind of event we want to have, but I feel pretty strongly that I’d like to get started earlier than 8:30pm, so this might be a deal breaker for us. I’m open to a Sunday afternoon event, but it might get tricky doing set-up ahead of time if the space also booked a Saturday event. That said, they seemed really laid back and would probably grant a lot of flexibility with set-up time on the day itself.

This Venue is Great for You if: This is a beautiful space that would be great for a Saturday night event. The couple that checked out the space at the same time as us planned to do the ceremony on the west coast, and they were looking for a spot to have an evening celebration here in NY. I think it would be great for that. If you want to do a nighttime event, especially if you want to use the furniture that they have available, you should definitely check this place out. It might get tricky if you want to use rentals for a Saturday event as they’d need to be moved in a day in advance (which might bump up the rental costs).

Overall, we both really liked the space, but there were some logistical things that were a little hairy. I know that there are venues out there that cost less than $3,500 for the raw space, but I haven’t seen them yet, so I’m not sure how they compare. This place is definitely still on the list.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Venue #1: The Green Building on Union

  1. Megan

    A couple of additional notes since this review was written:

    1) I have read, in discussions on other sites, that there are additional restrictions regarding interfaith marriages. Which is to say that they will not do them if one person is Jewish. Those of us who are not Jewish are free to do as we please, but not so for the chosen people when it comes to the Green Building. I’m not one to judge another’s religious views or personal choices, but I do have a problem with entities — be they people or potential wedding venues — that impose their views on others in a restrictive way. Bummer.

    2) I walked by recently, and it appeared that workers were gutting the area just inside the entrance. They may have been working on bathrooms or the foyer. Either way, it looked like a pretty big undertaking. I thought it was a little weird that no one mentioned that additional work was planned when we viewed the place. I wonder what changes they were making.

  2. Hi! I recently started working as the Managing Director at the Green Building / 450 Union, and I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some misinformation from this blog post. We currently have a Jewish community that rents the space for the High Holidays and other Jewish occasions, but:

    1) We do not have any catering requirements or restrictions. We allow you to bring in any caterer (or any vendor) for that matter.
    2) We allow ALL types of weddings, ALL faiths.
    3) We have been constantly making improvements to the space throughout the year, including adding bathrooms (we now have 5), creating a private space adjacent to the main room that will act as a dressing area/speakeasy (it’s beautiful!)…which is perhaps what the commenter above saw when she dropped by. We expect the final construction construction will be complete by December 1, 2010, and rest assured that it does not interfere with any of the events.
    4) You will have access to the space for a full 24 hours included in your rental fee. That means if you want to start setting up at 8am Saturday, you have the space to yourself until 8am Sunday.

    I’d love to invite any brides who are interested in seeing the space to shoot me an email at 450union@gmail.com to arrange for a walk-through.

    Thanks for posting my comment!
    Brooke, events coordinator at 450 Union

    • Megan

      Brooke, thanks for your comment. The goal of the post was not to share misinformation, but to provide consolidated info from my own visit to the space and other people’s experiences. I have spoken to others who have been given information that differed from the information I was given, and there have been some funky communication issues in the past (before your time). In any event, I’m excited to see these policies in writing and to hear about the improvements you’ve made to the space. I reiterate that we loved the space when we visited, and it sounds like it’s even better now. Thanks for the update.

      • Megan – Awesome, thank you so much for posting my comment. Having just planned my own wedding for the last year and a half, I know how annoying it can be to fall in love with a venue…only to be totally bummed out about all of the restrictions in place! It’s a brave bride to plan a wedding in a totally raw space, and you should be aware of everything going in. Best of luck to you and your readers and thanks again!

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