In a boon for retailers, New York’s pedestrian retail strips have returned to life, two months ahead of schedule.
Architects around the world welcomed the news on Tuesday as strong foot traffic in Manhattan met a related decision by some major residential landlords to increase rents.
The city said the 131nd Street rezoning, passed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in October 2017, had resulted in the construction of 369 new stores. These retail outlets were expected to open by December, but now the boosters of pedestrian retail are on the market for a smoother landing.
On 161st Street between Fifth and Lexington avenues, the Kohl’s and Target are already open.
“For Kohl’s this was a new challenge,” Ronald Carucci, executive vice president of real estate at Kohl’s, told the New York Post. “We want to expand in other markets, but there wasn’t room.”
Carucci’s reticence is typical of big-box stores like Kohl’s and Target, who no longer want to risk the risk of sales cannibalization in shopping-town districts such as Cherry Hill, N.J., or Mountain Lakes, N.J. That is changing the nature of retail properties, where custom-built mega-plazas used to house stores now house separate units for food vendors or medicine.
Under the 151st Street rezoning, Walgreens is opening a Dadeland pharmacy next door to the 1854 Presbyterian Church. The new retail space has been refurbished with original details, according to the Post.
All of the new stores are hiring new staff. And despite some frenzied activity during the holidays, such as a Trader Joe’s opening in the Broadway zone, and the beginning of the $70 million Macy’s renovation, new retail ranks are mostly sitting idle – a far cry from the early 1900s, when many New Yorkites shopped from the sidewalk, standing on the side and roving about the city.
Yet the numbers back what many in the retail industry had already figured out. After the massive storm that brought unprecedented flooding to lower Manhattan, leading some to doubt whether retailers would return to lower Manhattan, foot traffic in Manhattan’s retail strips rose, according to industry data collected by Credit Suisse.
“We were pleased to see some new vendors popping up to fill vacancies in the same locations, but we also want to see more of the larger retailers return, especially the department store anchors, which were incredibly successful and the cornerstone of our districts in the early 1900s,” said Jerry Cerasale, president of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.