National chains transform Manhattan’s most trafficked corridors

Even entire crowds can go upscale. While Manhattan’s most popular shopping streets, like 34th Street and 14th Street, continue to attract throngs, they are also gradually expanding or transforming themselves, while other areas are now beginning to come into their own as shopping districts.

On an informal list of the top 10 most-trafficked retail intersections put together by brokerage Newmark Knight Frank, 34th Street and Seventh Avenue came in first. The Business Improvement District for the area recorded upwards of 9,000 people per hour coming and going at peak times. (By contrast, 42nd and Fifth Avenue, which is ranked eighth on the list, has 6,600 pedestrians per hour at peak hours.)

The criteria used for the Newmark list include Business Improvement District pedestrian counts as well as some counts done by the brokerage firm, the MTA’s periodic counts of subway stop usage, and Newmark’s tracking of sales per square foot of retailers throughout the city.

“When I think of the most trafficked retail areas of the city, I think of most of the two-way streets. Going downtown to uptown: 14th Street, some of 23rd Street, 34th Street, 86th Street and 125th Street,” says Jason Pennington, director of Butler Kane Inc. All of these streets are still major contenders in the retail arena, Pennington says, but the makeup of the streets is changing.

“Eighty-sixth, 34th and 14th streets used to be very similar in a lot of ways, but now with national retailers coming in, things are a little different,” he said.

The opening of Trader Joe’s on 14th Street near Third Avenue this past year, for example, has changed where people shop in that area. “It brings people farther east than before,” Pennington says. Other national chains that have appeared on 14th Street, such as Whole Foods and DSW, have also made 14th Street more of a draw for shoppers. As the street evolves, many of the smaller retailers that have long been part of the street’s discount stores — selling luggage, batteries and sneakers, often all in one space — may have to leave as their leases come up in the next year or so, leaving landlords to entice higher-paying tenants into the spaces, Pennington says.

Large national chains that have opened on 34th Street, such as H & M and American Eagle Outfitters, have also forced some smaller stores to parts of the block that are less costly. “Some local stores, like T-shirt shops, are slowly being pushed to lower-rent parts of those streets, farther west or farther east,” Pennington says.

However, larger stores on main streets also attract the presence of smaller stores that want to pick up their traffic.

“Accessories and clothing stores want to be on 34th, 86th, or 57th if they can afford it,” says Pennington. “Both handbag boutiques and costume jewelry people want to be close to big stores; they can’t be too far off by themselves.”

86-ing weekends

One street that seems to be expanding its retail reach is 86th Street, ranked ninth on Newmark Knight Frank’s list.

“We were always aware that 86th between Lexington and Third was a true nucleus of traffic, but at one point it was a five-day-a-week location. Then, about five or six years ago, retailers really started to understand the importance of the corridor and thought, ‘We’re sitting in the midst of lots of residential property,’ so it evolved to a seven-day-a-week location,” says Fred Posniak, senior vice president of W & M Properties.

Extell Development Corporation recently cleared a site for an apartment complex with stores on the ground floor on the southeast corner of 86th and Lexington, and the retail space is already spoken for.

“Barnes & Noble and H & M pre-leased space there before they put a shovel to the ground,” according to Posniak.

In a transaction reported in last month’s issue of The Real Deal, one of W & M’s own 86th Street properties has a tenant who is so pleased with the location that they opened a second store across the street from their first.

“We reached out to one of our retailers — Sprint — a year in advance of their lease expiration,” says Posniak, “and now they have a second location across the street at $400 a square foot,” a record rent for East 86th Street, according to brokers.

Breaking down the Wall

One area of the city that is not on Newmark Knight Frank’s top 10 list but which is garnering a lot of attention from retail brokerages as the next big shopping area is the Financial District.

“Wall Street gets 16,000 people an hour,” says Darrell Rubens, managing director at Winick Realty.

While that kind of traffic would zoom it onto the top 10 list, numbers vary on pedestrian counts for Downtown. The Downtown Alliance offered the count of 120,000 people for the day at the corner of Broad and Wall, with 4,400 people at the peak lunch hour.

While the Financial District is typically perceived as dead on weekends, that is changing.

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“I don’t think people understand that Wall Street is that busy and it’s getting busier every day, and every subway line converges down there,” says Rubens.

Until fairly recently, Wall Street was not considered a place to look for a residence, much less to shop, but now luxury retailers such as Tiffany & Co. and Herm s are moving Downtown.

“Retailers who were neighbors on 57th and Fifth are running Downtown. Lots of retailers want to get a good deal and be next to Tiffany’s and Herm s,” Rubens says.

Retail rents Downtown are also appealing compared to other areas of the city, though prices are starting to go up.

“As a place to do retail, it’s even a little late now because the prices are going up, but the prices are still so much more reasonable than other places in the city,” says Cheryl Cohen, vice president of Mogull Realty. “I’m currently negotiating a deal there for under $80 a square foot.”

Cohen adds that while prices are comparatively low, retail space can be very hard to find in the Wall Street area. “You have to dig for it,” she says.

The great retail way

There is one street that brokers agree is always reliable for retailers: Broadway.

It is also the street that lands most often on Newmark’s top 10 list: 34th and Broadway finished in second place, 42nd and Broadway in third, Broadway and Canal in fourth, and 14th and Broadway in seventh.

“The best street in my estimation is Broadway, from Washington Heights all the way down to the Battery,” says Cohen. “Broadway has everybody.”

Manhattan’s busiest retail intersections

1. 34th Street at Seventh Avenue

2. 34th Street at Broadway

3. Broadway at 42nd Street

4. Broadway at Canal Street

5. Lexington at 59th Street

6. 57th Street at Fifth Avenue

7. 14th Street at Broadway (Union Square)

8. 42nd Street at Fifth Avenue

9. 86th Street at Lexington Avenue

10. Columbus Circle at 59th Street

Source: Newmark Knight Frank