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The Real Miracle on 34th Street is its Retail Renaissance

May 20, 2019

Lois Weiss, New York Post

Hudson Yards may be getting the spotlight, but its West 34th Street neighbors are basking in the glow.

“Thirty-fourth Street is well-positioned to be the link between Fifth Avenue, Midtown and Hudson Yards,” says Richard Hodos, vice chairman of CBRE.

Of course, 34th has been a shopping mecca since Macy’s opened at Sixth Avenue in 1902 and the Empire State Building opened on Fifth in 1931. But area megaprojects like Hudson Yards and Manhattan West have given the street a surge of 21st-century adrenaline.

“The street is one consistent contiguous block of commercial, entertainment and retail,” says Gene Spiegelman of RIPCO Real Estate.

Starting at the Fifth Avenue end, Amazon uses 7 W. 34th St. as a distribution warehouse, a bookstore and a coffee shop.

Farther west, a swath of stores mid-block owned by Jeff Sutton have additional air rights that are in play, sources say. The UK clothing retailer Superdry at Nos. 21-25 has a few years left on its sublease from Apple. Shoe retailer Aldo at No. 27 has nearly a decade left on its lease, while Geox at No. 29 is remodeling.

Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) is moving the AT&T store from its current spot at 16 W. 34th St., next to the Empire State Building observatory entrance, to another 34th Street location, making a larger storefront available.

In Herald Square, change is evident. Forever 21 has moved out of No. 50 and will open in H&M’s old spot at Vornado’s 435 Seventh Ave. And although it is has lost Forever 21, the owner of 50 W. 34th St., JEMB Realty, has extensive plans to upgrade the retail offering.

The residential lobby of that building, also known as Herald Towers, will move from 34th Street to 33rd Street but JEMB is retaining its rare, full marquee that stretches across the sidewalk to the curb and can be used for tenant signage.

The building will then have 446 feet of frontage — with 200 feet along West 34th Street — before wrapping around Broadway and all the way onto West 33rd Street.

Marketed by Hodos with Michael Remer of CBRE, it has 102,912 square feet on four levels and can be divided into smaller areas. Larger windows are also planned.

“This is creating an opportunity to reimagine and redo this building at one of the best retail locations in North America,” Hodos says. “We are casting a very wide net internationally.” Indeed, Steven Stedman and Bryn Davies from overseas CBRE offices in the UK and Asia respectively, are also pitching in on this assignment.

Across Herald Square at Macy’s, Kenneth Horn of Alchemy Properties is advising the department store giant on the development of an office tower that could rise 800 feet above the store.

On the south side of 34th Street, Target is thriving at No. 112, a mid-block building owned by ESRT that also houses Sephora and Foot Locker, says David Green of CBRE.

Along the south blockfront between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Vornado is planning to rework One Penn Plaza’s retail and public space. “Obviously, their plans are a plus,” says Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership.

The north side of this block “used to be the Wild West,” but now new developments are underway.

For example, developer Chetrit has plans approved for a 32-story hotel from Nos. 257 to 261 (formerly a Conway and a Burger King).

Next door, at 261-263 W. 34th St., Churchill Real Estate Holdings hired a Cushman & Wakefield team led by Stephen Soutendijk to market 12,063 square feet of retail in the 47,000-square-foot office building.

By owning both 265-267 W. 34th St. and 484-486 Eighth Ave., Vornado has assembled 125,000 square feet for an upcoming project.

“It will definitely be an upgrade,” says Dan Pisark, also of the Partnership, about the newcomers.

Between Eighth and Ninth avenues, Vornado is also spearheading the redevelopment of the former Farley post office into a mixed-use facility. It will have roughly 750,000 square feet of offices on one floor that tops the Moynihan Train Hall; the “new Penn Station” will have shops, food and train tracks below.

The number of pedestrians walking between Penn Station and Hudson Yards is expected to be “enormous . . . and they will have to go through the retail portion of Farley,” Vornado chairman Steve Roth bragged during the company’s April conference call.

Across Ninth Avenue, Brookfield is developing Manhattan West with several office towers, a hotel and an apartment building, as well as retail with a Whole Foods, a Peloton and others surrounding a green plaza.

The northeast corner of 10th Avenue at 461 W. 34th St. has a new Courtyard Marriott. Across the street, First Republic bank will have offices above two branches.

Finally, Hudson Yards sits on the western side of 10th Avenue and will eventually extend to the West Side Highway. Along with retail from Dior to Dylan’s Candy Bar, there are eateries, The Shed arts center, the popular Vessel climbing attraction and one end of the High Line, a delightful strollway to even more shopping in the Meatpacking District.