CBRE’s Susan Kurland on American Girl’s Expansion and KidZania’s Invasion


or a broker who counts top-luxury retailers like Jimmy Choo and REI among her eclectic cache of clients, Susan Kurland, an executive vice president for CBRE’s Retail Brokerage Services, hardly considers representing Mattel’s American Girl brand as child’s play. Her work with the highly popular line of 18-inch dolls has garnered her accolades like REBNY’s Most Creative Deal of the Year Award in 2002 for American Girl’s 45,200-square-foot space at 609 Fifth Avenue. Fresh off of working on a deal that brought fashionably square retailer J.C. Penney to the office and retail portions of 200 Lafayette Street (a building owned by Jared Kushner, the owner of The Commercial Observer), Ms. Kurland spoke about her work with American Girl and the imminent arrival of KidZania, an international chain of family entertainment centers.

kurland a web CBREs Susan Kurland on American Girls Expansion and KidZanias Invasion
Susan Kurland.

The Commercial Observer: From what we’ve heard, J.C. Penney may be putting in either itself or one of its brands in the retail portion of 200 Lafayette? Do you know what their plans are going to be?
Susan Kurland: I think it’s going to be rotating formats, but the truth of the matter is I don’t think they have actually totally determined what it’s going to be.

This would be J.C. Penney’s first Downtown store, right?
Yes, but it’s not a J.C. Penney store. I believe—and I don’t know for sure—that they’re going to rotate and try out different concepts.

That aside, do you think the Soho retail market will change?
What’s really going on in the market, there hasn’t been that much of a shift other than the landscape moving farther south and east, and that sort of really happened with me (laughs). I put REI on the corner of Lafayette and Houston. I felt that they were a destination tenant, which they are, and it wasn’t necessary for them to pay the full bore of Broadway, because just as many people will see them and come to them in the Puck Building.

Then, when you look at sort of like a J.C. Penney, if you think that they are, they are going to have some form of retail in the base. Again, that’s two blocks off of Broadway. It’s really the corner of Broome of Lafayette, so that’s south and east once again.

But when you look at the more luxury types of tenants, generally they’re further west. Some of the more popular streets are Spring, Prince, Greene and some little pockets of Wooster streets, while Broadway continues to retain sort of the bigger-box, national chain-type tenants.

Are big-box retailers starting to look at buildings similar to The Puck Building for possible Downtown outposts?
You need to be a destination-oriented tenant to be successful at making a move like that. If you look back many, many years ago, it’s sort of like when Crate & Barrel didn’t go to Soho, but they went to the southern-most corner before you cross Houston Street, as did Adidas. That would probably be an example of sort of putting your flag in the ground a little bit early. Because if you go north on Broadway, there’s not a lot of stuff that goes on there. It has not merged and become really an overly important retail area, until you get up again much farther north to like 12th Street or in that part of the world.