Development Projects Abound, But Boroughs Still Under-Retailed

Throggs Neck Shopping Center.
Throggs Neck Shopping Center.


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.

“Our biggest problem is securing sites in the five boroughs to build adequate retail,” Christopher Conlon, chief operating officer and executive vice president at one of the most active developers of urban retail in the boroughs—Acadia Realty Trust—told The Mortgage Observer. Thomas Caputo, president of Equity One, a REIT active in development of retail sites in New York City and Long Island, concurred with Mr. Conlon on the lack of adequate retail in the boroughs.

With a limited availability of developable land, many of these developers are working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and other agencies to secure sites. In March of 2012, Equity One was selected by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to redevelop a surface parking lot into a 130,000-square-foot multi-level retail center at grade. The development, Broadway Plaza, at 171 West 230th Street in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, is located at the intersection of West 230th Street and Broadway with direct access off of the Major Deegan Expressway. Equity One’s site is at the hub of a major retail corridor that is well served by subway, buses and easily accessible by automobiles. With almost 550,000 people within less than three miles, the project reflects the REIT’s strategy of bringing convenience to urban areas that are underserved by national retailers. Construction commenced earlier in 2013 and the project is expected to open in fall 2014.

A few blocks away from the site, local developer Metropolitan Realty Associates and Angelo Gordon are building Riverdale Crossing, a 165,000-square-foot shopping center slated to open before the end of the year on the site of a former Stella D’Oro factory.

Simone Development Cos. is undertaking a third major retail project in the Bronx in conjunction with Aaron Malinsky and Paul Slayton. They’re developing Throggs Neck Shopping Center in the Ferry Point section. The two level center will include 285,000 square feet of retail, in addition to covered and uncovered parking for 900 cars. The center will be anchored by a 165,000-square-foot Target when it opens in 2014 and will provide a mix of national and local retailers to occupy the remaining space. T.J. Maxx has signed a lease for 28,417 square feet and other tenants include Petco, Famous Footwear, MetroOptics Eyewear and Applebee’s.

Triangle Equities president Lester Petracca also sees the boroughs as under-retailed, though he added that retailers in some Triangle properties have seen results surpass expectations. “When we built Triangle Junction, on Nostrand Avenue near Brooklyn College,” Mr. Petracca remembered, “most of the retailers never realized that their stores in the center would achieve the sales level.”

In 2011, New York City Economic Development Corporation selected Triangle Equities to purchase and develop two sites in the South Bronx. They include a spot at 430 Westchester Avenue and another parcel on land between East 14th Street, Brook Avenue and Westchester Avenue in the Hub section of the South Bronx.

Expected to be completed by early 2014, the new $41 million Triangle Plaza mixed-use commercial and community facility project in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx will serve as a catalyst for a revitalization of a major intersection that once served as a bustling urban center. New buildings totaling 187,000 square feet will house restaurants, a FRESH grocery store, along with much-needed nonprofit office space for Legal Services of New York.

In downtown Brooklyn, Acadia Realty Trust, Washington Square Partners and Aaron Malinsky and Paul Slayton are developing City Point. The mixed-use property is expected to add 1.8 million square feet of retail and residential space to Brooklyn’s bustling retail corridor on Fulton Street. Phase 1 is complete and an additional 650,000 square feet are currently under construction at the former Albee Square Mall Site. In December 2012, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema announced that it will open New York Alamo Drafthouse City Point, a seven screen theater and entertainment center. A/X Armani Exchange celebrated its opening in the development in November 2012. Earlier in the year Century 21 signed a lease, making it the first new department store on Fulton Street in fifty years. The company plans to open a 50,000-square-foot store in 2015.

Empire Outlets New York City, slated to open in Thanksgiving 2016 on Staten Island, will be New York City’s first outlet center. The complex will have 350,000 square feet of retail space within the new entertainment complex.  Shops slated for the center include Adidas, Coach and Nike.

Even with all of these planned developments, the boroughs remain under-retailed for the foreseeable future, with a long way to go before the gap is closed.

“Numerous local officials have long claimed that the city needs more big-box retail,” Ms. Byrne Denham wrote in her May 2012 report, “and that many New Yorkers travel outside the city to do bulk shopping.”




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