Japanese retailer Uniqlo eyes Ann Taylor’s recently vacated space on West 34th Street

By Adam Pincus | August 10, 2010 03:45PM

Could Uniqlo be moving in at 31 West 34th Street?

Just four months after signing one of Manhattan’s most valuable retail deals ever, Japan-based apparel chain Uniqlo is in discussions to lease two or more floors at 31 West 34th Street, one block from Macy’s, according to two sources (note: correction appended).

Uniqlo will take ground floor space formerly occupied by retailer Ann Taylor, as well as the second floor currently occupied by casual clothing store Dr. Jays, the sources said. The two floors are comprised of a total of more than 30,000 square feet, but the lease could be for more than two floors, a source said.

In April, Uniqlo, owned by Japan’s largest clothing retailer, Fast Retailing, signed a 15-year deal worth $300 million for approximately 89,000 square feet at 666 Fifth Avenue, at 53rd Street, in what represented one of the most expensive leases ever. Uniqlo has only one existing store in the United States, at 546 Broadway in Soho, according to the company website.

The lease would mark another entry by a foreign store on the block between Fifth and Sixth avenues, which has seen a transformation in recent years with the arrival of well-known retailers such as Desigual from Spain, which signed at the end of 2009, and the Korean clothing chain WhoA.U., which opened in May. 

Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president of retail for Newmark Knight Frank, who was not involved with the Uniqlo negotiations, said many retailers grow in waves. 

“I think Uniqlo is just ramping up,” he said, citing the recent deal at 666 Fifth Avenue. “Retailers tend to expand in phases. I don’t think they just discovered 34th Street.” 

Retail chain Ann Taylor in June sued an entity called DIS NY, in New York State Supreme Court over the lease for 11,136 square feet of ground floor and 3,000 square feet of basement space, court records show.  

The building, 31 West 34th Street, is owned by the estate of Sol Goldman, but is controlled through a long-term lease by clothing retailer Isaac Oved’s DIS NY, public records show.  

Ann Taylor sought to transfer its lease which expired in 2017 to clothing store Guess, but DIS NY would not provide its consent. However, on July 21 the parties agreed to end the dispute with Ann Taylor paying $650,000 to DIS NY, and the landlord canceling all lease obligations, according to court records.  

Oved and Uniqlo declined to comment. Dr. Jays and Lansco did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The average asking rent on 34th Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues was $500 per square foot, the Real Estate Board of New York said in May. One retail broker working on several deals on the block said taking rents for the ground floor on West 34th Street were about $350 per square foot, and about $100 per foot on the second floor. Another retail source disputed that and said, in fact, that over the past nine months deals had been signed for between $450 per square foot and $600 per square foot on the block between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Uniqlo began its expansion into Manhattan in May 2007 when it signed a lease for three floors totaling 52,500 square feet at 546 Broadway, for an estimated $3 million per year.