The economic realities behind the city’s “storefront tracker” bill

Brokers see retail rents falling in some areas

A new law passed by City Council last month will require landlords to register the status of their commercial storefronts, as the city seeks more data in its efforts to combat retail vacancies and support small businesses.

Meanwhile, new research has questioned whether the phenomenon of empty storefronts is as widespread as feared, and some in the industry note that rents have already begun adjusting to the new retail reality, Bloomberg reported.

“Landlords still have to pay for maintenance, property tax, the mortgage,” Steven Soutendijk, executive managing director at Cushman & Wakefield told Bloomberg. “There’s almost no reason why any owner would want a space without income.”

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Cushman data shows rent decreases of 26 percent on Madison Avenue and 11 percent on the Upper West Side over the past year. City Council research shows that the average rent in Manhattan rose by 44 percent to $156 per square foot between 2006 and 2016, and 15 Brooklyn neighborhoods now command triple-digits rents as well

A report published last week by the City Planning Department also noted that “storefront vacancy may not be a citywide problem” and “is concentrated in certain neighborhoods.”

The study found vacancies as high as 20 percent on West 14th Street in Manhattan and in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, while the vacancy rate in Jackson Heights, Queens was just 5 percent.

“The city’s retail universe isn’t shrinking. It’s expanding into new neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with retail corridors that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” Real Estate Board of New York spokesman Jamie McShane said. “Yes there are changes — part of a national phenomenon that has brought dislocation as people’s tastes and habits change.” [Bloomberg] — Kevin Sun