Though "for rent" signs have become all too familiar at retail
locations throughout the city, they are a rarity on Third Avenue above
East 57th Street.
Retailers are expanding their existing spaces there, new stores are
moving in and hordes of consumers are shopping in them.
A flurry of development around East 59th Street-including the
construction of the new Bloomberg L.P. headquarters and a residential
building, as well as an influx of major retailers-is raising the profile
of this already robust shopping district.
Within the past seven months, at least seven
retailers have either moved to the bustling avenue or expanded their
existing stores there, including Arden b., Gracious Home and Mondrian
The exclusive furniture store Maurice Villency, which moved into a
30,000-square-foot space on East 57th Street in October, is driving some
of the recent interest in the neighborhood.
In its first four months, the store attracted 20,000 people, or three
times the visitors that its former location on East 35th Street and
Madison Avenue brought in annually.
A number of factors convinced the family-run store to move to Third
Avenue, including the belief that in a few years it would be shut out of
the neighborhood. "There was a lot of potential for the neighborhood,
and we felt that we wouldn't be able to get in there once it took off,"
says Eric Villency.
Another furniture retailer agreed. Earlier this year, Door Store
moved into 969 Third Ave., a block north of Maurice Villency, after its
lease expired 11 blocks up the avenue.
"I knew it would be good to be between Bloomingdale's and Maurice
Villency," says Jodi FitzGerald, president of Secaucus, N.J.-based Door
She was right. The store has been so successful that last month it
doubled its space to about 14,000 square feet. The new spot has even
boosted sales at its Park Avenue site. "The Third Avenue store has
turned into an advertisement for the other store," says Ms. FitzGerald.
The furniture shops are banking on the projects across the street
from them to increase foot traffic even more. The Bloomberg building,
being developed by Vornado Realty Trust, will have 200,000 square feet
of retail space. Another 24,000 square feet of retail space will become
available in 18 months or so, once the residential building is
completed. The prime shopping area on Third Avenue has
traditionally started at East 60th Street. But real estate experts say
that better shopping is creeping southward.
"Now, the border has expanded
to East 57th Street," says Candice Dobbs of Dobbs Associates Inc., who
helped Door Store relocate.
That's because space is so tight farther north. Door Store, which had
been in its former location for 13 years, wanted to stay in the vicinity
when its lease was up, but it couldn't find anything.
Rents on the avenue, at about $125 to $200 a square foot-though the
Vornado space is going for about $300-are a bargain compared with
Madison and Fifth avenue rents of $600 to $800 a square foot.
There are some vacancies from East 61st to 65th streets, but they are
expected to be snapped up quickly. "For every retailer that moves out,
there are three new ones in line to take its place," says Faith Hope
Consolo, vice chairman of Garrick-Aug Worldwide, the brokerage firm
marketing the spaces.
A case in point is Searle, which recently expanded one of its stores
on Third Avenue and is planning to expand the second one. "I'd be very
happy if a landlord wanted to offer me another space on Third Avenue,"
says Mr. Blatt.