Are You Ready for Some Retail?


When it comes to changing the face of a building—or even an entire neighborhood—there’s no denying the power of retail. Lately, Google has made headlines as it searches Soho for a flagship space. Likewise, the recent large-scale retail redevelopment at Brookfield Place at World Financial Center, a project we personally had a hand in as part of the project team, has turned heads and reinvented lower Manhattan, creating a demand for commercial, as well as residential, occupancy. However, if you’re a building owner, or anyone who is invested in attracting retail tenants for that matter, there’s something you ought to know: Get ready now!

Why the need to prep? If there’s one thing we’ve learned through our work on the retail end of the business, it’s that proactive work with a building owner or landlord can create just the right aesthetic and accommodations to attract the kind of marquee tenants that can take a space, entire block front or even a whole corridor to the next level. However, if a space is not positioned properly, that window of opportunity may pass. Yesterday’s hot neighborhood can turn into a ghost town. On a more positive note, a once-dormant street can suddenly come alive. It’s all in the approach.

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A fine example of readying in advance is what’s currently underway in Dumbo. Spector Group is the executive architect for a significant redevelopment in Brooklyn that will create a retail demand where one doesn’t exist today. The inquiries are already starting to come in—a classic case of “if you build it, they will come.”

The idea transfers well to office buildings in need of a facelift. Through team work, one can create a cityscape at a tower’s base and enliven a nearby neighborhood. Partnering with retail professionals, brokers, designers, existing tenants and end users allows building ownership to hear the collective needs and respond accordingly. The same concept applies to refreshing residential coops or condos, as is the case with Madison Avenue, where many owners have responded to evolving neighborhoods by positioning retail spaces to best serve residents and nearby office workers.

Another example of getting retail right is the automotive corridor along 11th Avenue, which Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Audi all call home. Working with building ownership, we were able to open up facades to bring in ample amounts of light—ideal for showrooms—and to switch out sidewalks, creating an aesthetic language that seamlessly relates to both the building and the neighborhood. Interiors that have a “vibrant look” also work well for these setups and offer a good deal of flexibility to attract a variety of future tenants. It’s all about creating an energy that works for a desired tenant mix and that a leasing agent can easily explain.

The one thing all of these success stories have in common: a proactive approach. If you want to be ready for retail, you should prepare your space before that tenant comes knocking at your door.