Life in most places is making an attempt to move forward from the pandemic lockdowns. But for one city block in New York, that isn’t the case.
Outside of the 59th Street subway stop, across Lexington Avenue, Bloomberg writes you can still find an entire block “frozen” in peak-pandemic time.
The area, which used to be prime New York real estate, was formerly the home of Banana Republic, the Gap and Victoria’s Secret. Now, all people see are signs trying to find tenants for the empty buildings.
Steve Soutendijk, an executive managing director at Cushman & Wakefield, told Bloomberg: “It’s probably the slowest market to return to pre-Covid levels out of any in New York City. It’s a little bit of a mystery.”
This block is a microcosm of how slow the city has been to recover, post-lockdowns, the report says. It was also suffering heading into Covid, with ridership exiting at 59th Street “declining for years” and businesses starting to select other parts of the city in favor of occupying the block.
Now, ridership at the “Bloomingdale’s Area”, as brokers call it, and the 59th Street stop is down 50% since 2014. The department store used to be the big draw in the neighborhood, which would then act as a feeder for smaller retail shops in the area.
But as online shopping has gained in prominence and since the pandemic severed off a large portion of the local businesses, the department store is “no longer the anchor it once was”, the report says.
Michael Hirschfeld, a vice chairman at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said: “It’s a model of shopping that’s not entirely in favor at the moment.”
Help from tourists has also waned, with international visitors only expected to reach 60% of pre-Covid levels this year, the report says.
But walking traffic is on the rise, the report says. More people are walking down that block than they did when the retail space was occupies in 2019, the report says, citing cell phone tracking data. Foot traffic in the area is outpacing other surrounding areas.
Maybe that’s why Soutendijk can’t help but shed a little optimism. He concluded: “I don’t think these spaces are staying vacant forever.”