Retail vacancy isn’t all about rent: REBNY

Empty storefronts abound in Village while Hell’s Kitchen thrives, despite similar prices

John Banks with Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village and Hell's Kitchen's Ninth Avenue
John Banks with Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village and Hell's Kitchen's Ninth Avenue

As the city debates imposing a form of retail rent control, the Real Estate Board of New York has some figures that suggest that rent isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to empty storefronts.

Two of the city’s shopping districts, Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen, have similar retail asking rents. But one looks like a ghost town and the other is thriving, the New York Post reported.

Asking rents on Greenwich Village’s Seventh Avenue South and Hudson Street are in the area of $150 to $155 per square foot – pretty similar to the average of $139 per square foot on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen between West 42nd and 59th streets.

But retail vacancy in the West Village – across 284 storefronts – is 11.3 percent, while in Hell’s Kitchen it’s only 5 percent across 262 stores, according to REBNY.

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“A lot of different issues go into whether or not someone occupies retail space,” REBNY president John Banks said. “One reason why retail leasing might not be doing well in a particular neighborhood is simply how many people are there.”

In fact, Hell’s Kitchen’s population grew by 9 percent to 29,157, thanks to new construction from 2000 to 2016, according to the U.S. Census. The West Village – where landmarking makes it difficult to build – lost 9.7 percent of its households during the same time, down to a population of 20,213 in 2016.

Manhattan’s Community Board 2 also rejects more than 25 percent of the liquor license applications in the East Village, while Community Board 4 rejects just 4 percent of applications in Hell’s Kitchen.

The City Council recently revived a proposal first put forward in 1986 – dubbed the Small Business Jobs Survival Act – that would give tenants a guarantee to a lease renewal with prices subject to arbitration. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said he wants to push for a property tax on empty storefronts. [NYP] – Rich Bockmann