As NYC storefronts go vacant, Brookfield sees unique retail opportunity
Global real-estate firm Brookfield Properties is attempting to provide its own solution for the increasing problem of storefront vacancies in some of New York City's most popular areas.
In an initiative that the company has been planning since the spring, Brookfield has bought up property on Bleecker Street in Manhattan's West Village and will begin to rent the locations out to promising small businesses as pop-up spaces.
The price of rent on Bleecker Street, formerly a booming area of small boutiques and independent businesses, skyrocketed when luxury brands like Marc Jacobs and Jimmy Choo took notice of the high-traffic, cosmopolitan area in the early 2000s. However, this dramatic change resulted in many original neighborhood stores closing, while many of the luxury brands moved on as time passed. Storefronts with rents most small businesses can't afford remain vacant for months, a phenomena which has repeated itself throughout the city's – and the nation's – trendiest neighborhoods.
Major developers like Toronto-based Brookfield, however, can foot the bill. The company said it will use the Bleecker Street properties as a testing ground for brands that have proven success online and want to try their luck with a physical space, offering lower rents and marketing assistance.
The plan launched this month, and currently counts businesses like floral shop Fleurotica, leather brand Slightly Alabama, cashmere brand Lingua Franca, and vegan lifestyle label Bonberi among its first clients.
All the while, New York City Council is currently sitting on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a proposal to fight empty storefronts by allowing tenants to demand lower rent prices. Despite being introduced in 1986, the legislation has only recently gained momentum as grassroots campaigns like #SaveNYC rally the public. The bill was re-introduced to the council last week.
As the reach of e-commerce giants like Amazon continues to grow and rents across the nation increase, the bill and strategies like Brookfield's will be watched closely.
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