Retail landlords mix it up
When developer TF Cornerstone went shopping last year for retail tenants to fill 30,000 square feet of ground-floor space at its six-building East Coast residential complex in Long Island City, Queens, many deep-pocketed national chains quickly responded. While a number of them did indeed land space, so, too, did several relative unknowns, including Sweetleaf Coffee and Espresso Bar, a java slinger with a six-year record in the neighborhood, which added alcohol to its offerings in its newest location.
“[TF Cornerstone] felt the community wanted local operators,” said Aaron Fishbein, the Winick Realty Group broker who represented the landlord in the project. “We took Sweetleaf over some nationals who were interested.”
Welcome to New York’s new retail game. Today, landlords increasingly seek to create a quirkier, less predictable mix of retail tenants, one that can bring more energy and help etch out a distinctive identity on what would otherwise be interchangeable strips. The shift comes at a crucial time, as several big landlords gear up to lease the millions of square feet of retail space scheduled to open in New York City in the next several years, everywhere from the World Trade Center to the outlet mall in Staten Island. Already those quests have yielded some odd winners, ranging from a simple grilled-cheese shop to a seller of handcrafted Moroccan tile.
Sweetleaf, for instance, is no Starbucks. It has a total of three stores, two in Queens and one in Brooklyn, and prides itself as much on the scientific precision of its brewing as on the reclaimed wood and antique furniture that help visually define its shops. While such outfits cannot offer landlords the financial yield of the big chains, they pay off in other ways, whipping up the foot traffic and buzz that can spill over into other stores, not to mention the offices and/or apartments in the floors above.
“In developments such as the East Coast in Long Island City, we seek out retail tenants that not only service the immediate neighborhood, but help create a destination,” said Steve Gonzalez, director of retail leasing at TF Cornerstone.
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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.