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Deals & Dealmakers Headline Retail

Flatiron foot traffic outpacing Fifth Ave.

By Holly Dutton

An ABS leasing team is marketing retail space in a Flatiron corridor that has outstripped Fifth Avenue as the hottest spot for foot traffic.

John Brod and Gregg Schenker, of ABS Real Estate, commissioned a pedestrian traffic study at 915 Broadway, where the duo is marketing an 8,000 s/f ground-floor flagship space.

The Flatiron building
Flatiron foot traffic is spiking

The result was surprising — foot traffic was significantly higher at peak periods on Broadway and 21st Street than on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, despite the retail rents being much higher on Fifth.

“I think this is a condition in the marketplace that very few retailers and real estate professionals are aware of and makes for a unique opportunity for tenants and brokers to be ahead of the curve with this knowledge and take advantage of,” said Schenker. According to the foot traffic study conducted by BFJ Planning, between the peak shopping hours of noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoons, the corner of Broadway and 21st Street had 24 percent more pedestrian traffic that the same street on Fifth Avenue.

“This area is just one of the most trafficked areas in the city now,” said Brod of the Flatiron District. “The tourists are coming in, even folks from New Jersey because of the PATH line. I don’t want to say it’s as important as 5th Avenue between 40th and 48th Street, but traffic here has become a driving factor with what’s happening with retail opportunities.” The surge in foot traffic is also reflected in public transit; subway ridership on the N and R trains at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, the 6 train at 23rd Street, and the N,Q, R, L, 4, 5, and 6 trains at Union Square is 200 percent higher than in Soho, according to data from the MTA.

Brod pointed to the explosion of big-name restaurants like Gramercy Tavern that have cropped up in the past 20 years, as well as the revamped public parks and plazas as factors that helped turn the neighborhood into a highly-trafficked destination.

“One of the factors that I think is helping drive this condition is Union Square Park and Madison Square Park have become such popular venues,” said Schenker, pointing to the Union Square Green Market, the Shake Shack at Madison Square Park, and the roster of high-profile restaurants dotting the area between the two parks.

The ABS team is also marketing a 3,800 s/f mezzanine space at 915 Broadway, where it has turned over about 60,000 s/f so far this year, including a recent lease signing for two and a half floors for the Simons Foundation, and multiple tech companies. They currently have a lease out with a tech company for the second floor.

The lobby of 915 Broadway was recently renovated, and the facade given a “historic renovation.” The retail space being marketed — which is currently occupied by restaurant catering facility Motivo — features 19-foot ceilings and a double-height glass storefront.

Average retail rents in area are in the $250-300 psf range, while office is around $75 psf, said Brod.

The retail space has so far attracted “a lot of interest” from tenants ranging from home furnishers to restaurateurs.

“The strength of the area is really in home furnishings,” said Brod, listing national retailers like ABC Home and Restoration Hardware, both of which have large footprints in Flatiron, on prime stretches of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, respectively.

“It’s the 50 yard line,” said Schenker. “It’s all about location, and it’s between the two parks. I think our tendency at the moment is national or international retailer, of which there is significant interest.”

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