“The ’57 Chevy in that old lady’s garage”: Madison Avenue buildings up for sale in litmus test for retail real estate

Price tag would provide a glimpse at retail real estate values in the pandemic

TRD New York /
Aug.August 03, 2020 10:00 AM
Right to left: 831, 835 and 837 Madison Avenue (<a href="https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7702056,-73.9666158,3a,90y,133.15h,116.82t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sYpoSK6JpLmVFg1eEan00jg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?hl=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Google Maps</a>)

Right to left: 831, 835 and 837 Madison Avenue (Google Maps)

Three properties along Madison Avenue have hit the market, offering a test case for the value of retail real estate in the pandemic.

The buildings, totaling 34,000 square feet, are located at 831, 835 and 837 Madison Avenue between East 69th and 70th streets, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s reportedly been decades since this much retail along Madison Avenue has been up for sale.

Luxury-clothing retailer Akris and Anne Fontaine, a women’s clothing line, occupy two of the shops, while the third is vacant. Property records show that the buildings, which have 91 feet of street frontage, are owned by entities tied to Myles Lowell, who died last year.

The premium district, which covers between East 57th and 72nd streets on Madison, had a retail availability rate of 33 percent in the second quarter, according to real-estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. That meant one-third of all retail space was either vacant or available for lease, up from only 10 percent a decade ago. Average retail rents in the district were also down 14.4 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, as the pandemic and online shopping further weighed on demand.

The price the properties fetch would offer a glimpse at the value of retail properties as the pandemic has further decimated the sector. On Sunday, Lord & Taylor and the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse joined the many retailers that have filed for bankruptcy over the last few months.

Some real-estate brokers said the rare opportunity to acquire such a large chunk of Madison Avenue would attract inquiries from family offices and developers.

The properties were built more than a century ago but remain in good condition, according to Will Silverman, managing director at Eastdil Secured, the firm handling the sale.

“It’s the ’57 Chevy in that old lady’s garage that had been sitting there for a long time,” Silverman said. [WSJ] — Akiko Matsuda


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