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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Empty stores plague the streets of the Upper East Side like an epidemic. Known affectionately as the ‘Gold Coast’, this area was home to trendy store front like American Apparel, Reebok, BCBG MAXAZRIA and oldies like Filenes Basement, all of whom have since shut their UES stores. As reported by the Real Deal, in July there were 82 vacant storefronts along Madison, Lexington, Third and Second avenues between 57th and 96th streets. “That is a lot, and there’s probably 20 percent more that’s on the market,” with space that is occupied but available for lease, said Greg Tannor, a retail specialist with Lee & Associates.

We all remember a time when asking rents in the area were soaring. Apparently they reached unsustainable peaks and tenants began losing steam. Store fronts collecting dust now include the five-story townhouse home at 770 Madison Avenue, four stores near the corner of Lexington’s East 85th Street, and the list goes on. There are only two blocks that have not been tainted by empty shops on the 13-block stretch on 3rd Avenue between East 70th and 83rd streets.

The statistics are alarming. During the second quarter, Third Avenue between East 57th and 79th streets saw the largest increase in its availability rate. Leaping 7 percent for the year, the availability rate is at 16.6 percent, as per to Cushman’s latest retail report. The second highest increase was seen on Madison Avenue between East 57th and 72nd streets with a 5.3 percent hike to an availability rate of 23.5 percent. 

The price tags on the store fronts play an important role on their desirability, but that is not the only factor. Third Avenue, which is geared towards chain apparel stores and national brands, with average asking rents at $283 per square foot, has fared the worst. “Third [Avenue], I think, is the first market to really struggle with some of the difficulties we’re seeing with national soft goods retailers,” said Steven Soutendijk of Cushman. “They’re the ones that are struggling in malls across the country.” Madison Avenue, which is a top international luxury shopping destinations, has fared slightly better even despite its sky-high asking rents, which average $1,431 per square foot. On Second Avenue, the retail woes are attributed mostly just to the lengthy construction along the Second Avenue subway line. With that project finally complete, the neighborhood should bounce back quickly. Most of those stores are home to neighborhood necessities such as dry cleaners, restaurants and other small stores.

By:  Ilana Siyance