New York City is the number one retail location in the world. Retailers from around the world flock to open flagship stores throughout the Big Apple. Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue, with its familiar cube, has the highest revenue of all Apple stores. Then there are the flagships of Uniqlo, Zara, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and a cast of others. Nevertheless, when you ask prominent owners of commercial real estate as well as local and national retailers, the general consensus is that the outer boroughs of New York City are severely under-retailed.
Eastern Consolidated’s Barbara Byrne Denham reported in May 2012 that retail sales per capita ratios for the outer boroughs were far below the national average. Brooklyn was 39 percent below, Queens was 40 percent below and the Bronx came in a whopping 60 percent below.
With the long-awaited Barclays Center open and new residential and mixed-use development projects popping up across Downtown Brooklyn, a retail conundrum is growing along the 17-block Fulton Mall.
The national and in some cases high-end retailers moving onto the strip paint a stark contrast to the long list of mom-and-pops, local discounters and jewelry shops that once almost exclusively lined the street.
Legislation related to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, a financing pipeline that has been used to fund several major development projects in the city, has cleared one hurdle towards renewal.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would restore an important component of the program set to expire at the end of September. According to people familiar with EB-5 and the legislative process to preserve it, a similar bill must now pass through Congress in the next few weeks before the program sunsets on September 30, a deadline that could possibly cut off millions of dollars of financing for a number of construction projects.
Legislation allowing oversees investors to fund job-creating real estate projects in exchange for green cards is set to expire at the end of September and proponents of the financing mechanism fear that a stalled deal to renew the law could strand hundreds of millions of dollars of development in the city.
Several large projects, including a $77 million plan to redevelop the Battery Maritime Building, a $200 million mixed use development in Downtown Brooklyn called City Point and a roughly $70 million deal to redo the retail at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station, have tapped what is called the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program for funding.
Tales of Retail
If the Fulton Mall is being transformed, it is only so much. The strip is being glammed up, stocked with major national retailers, at the cost of the mom and pops who have called the mall home for decades.
Still, things are not changing so much. As previously, pretentiously noted, Smith Street it ain’t, nor is it going to be. This is still a discount strip. From H&M to Target, the Gap to the almost-Filene’s, the newcomers have been far from high end—not counting the hamburgers. For further proof of the trend toward the same, welcome Century 21 to the neighborhood.