By Sarah Trefethen
Superstorm Sandy hit the South Street Seaport Historic District hard, but at least one block of the brick-and-cobblestone retail and residential neighborhood — which saw water seven feet or higher on ground floors — may be back to normal in time for the Fourth of July.
The Durst Organization’s Historic Front Street property has been under renovation since the storm, and the developer has hired Peter Braus of Lee and Associates NYC to handle lease negotiations for the street’s 11 storefronts.
The block was fully leased before the storm, but now there are four spaces available, ranging in size from 800 s/f to approximately 1,500 s/f.
“The rents are attainable for smaller tenants, and that’s what we’re going for,” Braus told Real Estate Weekly. “We’re looking for the jewelry store, the wine bar. We’re looking for cool, interesting, eclectic tenants who would be able to sort of generate their own customers. We’re not looking for a Seven Eleven or a yogurt shop.”
The remaining spaces are still assigned to pre-Sandy tenants, some of which are still considering whether or not they will be able to re-open, Braus said. But a few familiar faces are guaranteed to return on the still quiet block. Durst has signed lease renewals with five of the established tenants who only had one or two years left on their leases, according to Jordan Barowitz, the company’s director of external affairs. As part of the renewals, he said, the developer provided work allowances to help the businesses — which include restaurants, a popular coffee shop, a dry cleaner and a dermatologist — rebuild.
“It was a fantastic, successful, beautiful little jewel of a neighborhood with a really, really nice sense of community and great retail,” Barowitz said. “We want to try to recreate it.”
In contrast to the adjacent stretch of Fulton Street, which gets heavy foot traffic from tourists, retailers on the side streets of the Seaport district cater mainly to the neighborhood’s residents and workers.
“Some of the people who are returning have a significant following,” said Braus, citing Jack’s Coffee Shop and its many loyal regulars as one example. New tenants will be able to take advantage of daily visitors drawn to the block by the established tenants.
The retail spaces have been stripped down to the studs in order to get all the water out, Barowitz said. The HVAC systems have also been moved from ground floor up to the roof and all four electrical feeders are now above the flood line – changes made to protect against future storms.
Asking rent is around $100 psf, Braus said, but he’s ready to make deals.
“We’re really looking to get the proper tenant mix,” Braus said. “If it’s the type or tenancy that the Dursts and their partners would like to see, that’s going to be much more important to us than the rent.”