Report: Landmarking equals healthier retail

BY GABE HERMAN | A report by The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation found that the East Village has lower retail vacancy rates in its landmarked areas.

The results, released April 11, came from a survey of East Village retail vacancies that was done over several months last summer and fall. The survey was conducted by the East Village Community Coalition, the Cooper Square Committee, and G.V.S.H.P.

The neighborhood over all was found to have a 15 percent vacancy for ground-floor storefronts. But in the three historic districts — the St. Mark’s Historic District, E. 10th St. Historic District, and East Village/Lower East Side Historic District — there was a combined rate of just 7 percent.

Although Greenwich Village definitely has its share of vacant storefronts, like this one, landmarking leads to lower vacancy rates, according to a new study. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Outside of the historic districts, the biggest avenues and streets were found to have high retail vacancy rates. Avenue C had 23 percent vacancy, the Bowery was at 26 percent, and 14th St. had a 31 percent vacancy, the highest rate in the survey.

“We were very pleased to see that in the landmarked parts of the East Village, retail vacancies are consistently lower than in other parts of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P. “Interestingly, it is in the parts of the neighborhood with more chain stores, like 14th St., where some of the highest retail vacancy rates can be found.”

In releasing the study’s results, G.V.S.H.P. declared that its findings countered a 2018 report by the Real Estate Board of New York. That REBNY report, which compared the West Village with Hell’s Kitchen, indicated that more landmarked properties in a neighborhood led to higher retail vacancy rates.

G.V.S.H.P. disputed some of the data in REBNY’s report, and argued it was not a comprehensive study because it compared one block in Hell’s Kitchen to three streets in the West Village.

This current report by G.V.S.H.P., according to the society, is the first neighborhood-wide survey to compare landmarked with nonlandmarked areas.

Berman said that while no study is conclusive, their results indicated that historic districts and landmarked areas are actually thriving in the current tough retail climate in the city.

“This data clearly undercuts the narrative that real estate lobbyists and others would peddle that landmarking somehow hampers or hurts small businesses,” Berman stated.

“Retail spaces in the East Village’s historic districts are largely occupied by small, independent businesses, many of whom have been there for years or even decades,” he added. “This is yet another indication of how landmarked areas of New York City are among the most stable, healthy, vibrant parts of the city; and far from hurting local residents or businesses, landmark designation can help preserve and protect what New Yorkers love most about their communities.”

11 Responses to Report: Landmarking equals healthier retail

  1. The Bloomberg era saw the rise of tons of new buildings. They all have ground floors and numerous retail spaces. So who's measuring the effect of all this new supply on vacancy rates? We're not losing small businesses any more than usual; we're just gaining lots of new spaces for them faster than they can move in. I'll bet there's more retail businesses today than before Bloomberg, but just counting what's empty does not show the real numbers.

  2. This and the REBNY study both seem pretty meaningless––neither seems to control for confounding variables. (Hello, L train construction!) Beyond that, it actively compares side streets within historic districts to larger avenues. How do the historic districts compare to the sections of St. Mark's that aren't within historic districts? How do vacancies in the East Village compare to Greenwich Village, far more landmarked, but also wealthier?

    In my opinion, the best thing you could do to encourage small business is legalize more spaces for them––St. Mark's is one of the best spots for retail in the whole city, but all the space is grandfathered in. We should have a commercial overlay for all of our side streets and essentially allow more St. Marks to bloom.

    • "St. Mark's is one of the best spots for retail" — spoken like a true, very young person. St. Mark's Place is a total tourist trap, and one of the worst examples of nyc retail. In fact, it's hard to find a worse retail street. We don't owe tourists much, but it should be more than that rip-off row. Let's have more college drinking strips! Not! One day you'll be a grown up and understand the error of having been young and simplistic.

  3. You're a moron Will Thomas. No one wants to live on side streets with businesses. Perhaps 9th St between 1st & 2nd Aves being an exception.

    • I like living near a bunch of small businesses and I think other people would too, so long as they're not bars or clubs or expressly noisy. It's a big quality of life upgrade to have a bodega on the corner.

  4. Open New York, Will Thomas' group, is run by real estate investors to promote development and thereby ruin our community.

    • Last time I checked we were regular New Yorkers who wanted more housing in wealthy, exclusionary neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, but power to you if you want to believe conspiracy theories.

      • You mean exclusive, not exclusionary. In other words you want to live with rich people without having money yourself or without investing decades of time or without making any other sacrifices. Basically, you want to take what others have without doing anything for it. Just unrequited greed. Sad.

        Maybe if you committed to a down neighborhood now and made it great, then one day you'd have something that others want to take from you. Earn your housing and don't just cry and deride others for them.

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