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Union Square the new place to be

By Holly Dutton

Retail in and around Union Square has seen a jolt in daily visitors, according to a recent study.
The neighborhood, which houses one of the city’s busiest subway stations, has experienced an 11 percent increase in daily visitors since 2012, according to the Union Square Partnership’s (USP) 2014 Pedestrian Activity Report.

Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk

USP executive director Jennifer Falk attributed the higher numbers to office leasing, especially with tech and creative tenants, and changes in retail tenants.

“We do the report every two years, this was from the summer of 2014,” said Falk. “It’s an all-time high of foot traffic.”

BFJ Planning, the firm that conducts the studies for the USP, found that the number of average daily visitors to the Union Square neighborhood is 383,000.

BFJ uses a number of locations around Union Square to conduct its study, which entails using people on the street counting pedestrians, a formula, and other information like MTA ridership numbers.

The 14thSt-Union Square subway station is the fourth busiest subway hub in NYC on a weekday and second busiest on weekends.

The Union Square corridor’s ground-floor retail vacancy rate has remained one of the lowest among neighborhoods in New York City, at 2.9 percent.

And in addition to the plethora of tech and creative tenants that have moved into Union Square, Falk and the USP have noticed a new trend — retailers expanding from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

“Historically, someone would first start a brick-and-mortar business in Manhattan, and now we’re seeing the reverse happen,” said Falk.

Bedford Cheese Shop, a cheese retailer that began on Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, opened its second location in Union Square on Irving Place between 18th and 19th Streets. Dough, a popular donut shop in Bed-Stuy, opened its second store on 19th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Dozens of new retailers signed leases in the Union Square area last year, including homeware stores Chilewich and Homenature, clothing and cosmetics retailers Eddie Bauer, Rent the Runway, and MAC Cosmetics, and fitness-centric business CrossFit, Reebok FitHub, Planet Fitness and juice bar Liquiteria, which opened two locations.

Restaurants include Morton’s Grille, Florian’s, Roast Kitchen, Shuko, Burger and Lobster, Wok to Walk and Botequim.

According to the USP, the Union Square area is home to more than 70,000 residents, 150,000 workers, and 40,000 students.

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