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The Financial District doubles down on retail

lee-block-258x30020Westfield’s World Trade Center complex may have gotten off to a wobbly start, but Lower Manhattan’s retail scene appears to finally be finding its footing. Brookfield Place’s $250 million revamp brought in luxury retailers like Hermes and Burberry, as well as a food hall that quickly became a favorite of local families. Westfield World Trade Center is now fully leased, according to a spokesperson, and Pier 17’s new 300,000-square-foot retail space is slated to open next year. Meanwhile, the area’s demographics have changed — decades of residential conversions and the recent wave of construction have established a critical mass of younger, well-to-do residents. The population has doubled since 2000, and a third of families in the area earn $200,000 or more, according to the New York State Comptroller. And financial services, once the district’s defining industry, now accounts for only 34 percent of total jobs in the area, compared to 56 percent in 2000. With that new demographic in mind, Whole Foods is set to open a new store at One Wall Street in 2018. “It’s a big deal,” said Susan Kurland, executive vice president and co-head of global retail services at Savills Studley. And it’s not just families and office workers who are driving the retail scene — the district has seen a huge influx of tourists, with the WTC memorial bringing 14 million visitors to the area annually. The greater diversity Downtown has extended the shopping day, broadened demand, and created a unique retail mix distinct from Soho or Tribeca, according to industry observers. “FiDi stands on its own,” said Lee Block, executive vice president at Winick Realty Group. “It has its own daytime workforce population, its own residential population, and retail coming in to serve that population.” For more on how retail in the area is evolving, we turn to our panel of experts.

Lee Block
Executive vice president, Winick Realty Group

Between Westfield and Brookfield Place, should there be concerns about the luxury retail market becoming oversaturated?

I don’t think there is an oversaturation. The demographics Downtown support what these retailers typically look for: extremely high population density, very high average incomes for households, as well as well above average workers’ incomes. From Century 21 to Tiffany and Hermes, there is a place for everyone to prosper in Lower Manhattan.

What was behind the huge price jump that REBNY reported last spring, and where do you see rents going six months and a year from now?

A lot of new prime, prime space has come on the market lately, and that has affected average pricing. And it wouldn’t surprise me if prices kept going up in the best corridors Downtown as space is absorbed and there is less supply. The corner of Wall Street and Broad Street acts as a pseudo-Times Square for Lower Manhattan. The WTC is a very busy area of Downtown as well. Meanwhile, secondary cross streets, like Fulton Street, John Street, Maiden Lane, are incredibly strong compared to years back. Retailers are leaving their spaces and being replaced with newer, exciting, unique types of retailers.

How could FiDi’s retail landscape be improved?

Dinner options in the neighborhood are still extremely limited.

What challenges remain for bringing in basic retail amenities like supermarkets?

The neighborhood has been serviced, just under-serviced. The infrastructure Downtown has been a challenge for any full-service supermarket to enter the market. The buildings — many of which are landmarked — on older, narrow streets were not built for that kind of an operation.

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Winick Realty Group is one of New York’s prominent real estate firms specializing in retail leasing and advisory services.  Over the years, Winick Realty has served a broad range of domestic and global clients, with a strong emphasis on long-term representation and expansion and growth strategies.  Winick Realty Group is highly recognized as a forerunner in the retail real estate market.


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