BY DANIEL GEIGER
Virginia Pittarelli, better known in the brokerage industry as Ginny, left Madison Retail Services last year to join the retail real estate investment firm Crown Equities, where she leads a new brokerage offshoot of the company called Crown Retail. Now, about a year later, Ms. Pittarelli sits down with The Commercial Observer to discuss how the new venture has panned out and a resurgent retail market that has kept successful deal-makers like her very busy.
The Commercial Observer: The office market is definitely in a summer slowdown, perhaps even a more pronounced slowdown, given the data. How is retail doing in the city right now?
Ms. Pittarelli: Manhattan is on fire, we are so busy. Everyone has been reading about the leasing in some of the primary markets, like Upper Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Go back to ICSC in May, which was a positive show in Vegas, where the environment was one where people were positive and activity was brisk, in a climate that is still fragile and turbulent. Look at our own situation and of course Europe too. New York is somewhat isolated from that.
What retailers have you been working with lately?
I’ve been doing deals with the next retailers that are coming into the U.S. I can mention one in particular, Jack Wills from London. Peter Williams [the CEO] is a terrific guy and has amazing things to say. We’ve done 12 stores for them, and they continue to grow. They’re one of several new clients we are fortunate enough to have. Everyone is expanding. The tenant demand side is almost at an all-time high. Not in all areas, but the primary markets. Rents are escalating,
Fifth Avenue is realizing per-square-foot rental rates that would have been unheard of just a short time ago, 3,000 a square foot. That’s the market there, north of 48th Street. South of 48th, people are quoting $1,000 a foot, which is incredible. Sometimes we even get a little concerned—not all retailers can afford this. Madison Avenue is back, Greenwich Avenue (in Greenwich, Conn.) is back, Third Avenue in the 60s, which had really softened, is back. In Times Square you can’t even find any space.
Do you do most of your business in the city?
We’re a national company, we rep our clients in Washington, D.C., South Beach, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. We go where our clients need us. Our primary focus is tenant rep and helping retailers to expand their store network.
Before joining Crown Acquisitions, you were with Madison Retail Services. Tell me about the decision to move and how it has been at the new firm.
Madison Retail Services was part of Madison Marquette. Their core biz, I would say, kind of modified itself, not too different from a lot of other companies after 2008, and it was time to create a new partnership where the core businesses were more aligned. Madison became more focused on third-party investing, rather than servicing the portfolio in terms of leasing deals. I was with them for over 10 years. It was and still is a wonderful company. It’s been proven you need the resources, the platform and relationships to be competitive in retail brokerage, to provide your clients with best services and the information they need and deserve, you need to have a good infrastructure. A parent allows us to have resources at our fingertips. It’s a way for the company to grow. Everything we did, this whole marriage, we want to be the best with respect to servicing our clients.