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New York's retail experiences unprecedented demand.

New York City's retail has never looked more vibrant. There isn't a single neighborhood unaffected by the city's economic opium. Demand has been so strong for retail space in every district, that even spaces which have long sat vacant have been rented.

High-profile Europeans, who have been observing from the sidelines, have finally taken the plunge. The large French cosmetics retailer, Sephora, will unveil its first New York store later this year on Broadway in SoHo, as will cutting-edge Italian women's designer Alberta Ferretti. Paul & Shark, a luxury men's apparel manufacturer, will open a boutique on 66th Street and Madison Avenue.

It's not only the Europeans. Canadians too are crossing the border, as Roots looks to Lafayette Street for its first New York store.

Cosmetic companies have decided they want to put their best faces forward by establishing a retail presence beyond department store and mail order channels. Shiseido, Shu Uemura and Avon are all jumping in the game. European salons are also having good hair days. Jean-Louis David and Jean-Claude Biguine are opening up left and right to cater to the well-tressed.

Foreign retailers who have opened with a minimal presence in New York are now expanding their operations. Club Monaco, Zara International and Tristan & America have all seen their business increase dramatically and realize they need to open additional stores to take full advantage of their potential customer base.

Uptown goes Downtown - or the reverse commute for Manhattan's luxury. retailers. These premier companies have already established a flagship presence on Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue or 57th Street. Now they want to be in the heart of SoHo. Louis Vuitton, Mato and Prada have recently signed leases for retail space in this district. Can Gucci and Hermes be far behind?

Downtown goes uptown. Just as luxury goods retailers are moving Downtown, some of the city's trendier Downtown merchants like Tootsie Plohound Shoes and Scoop, women's apparel retailers, are heading northward. They know that there is a hip customer base living above 14th Street, but even she doesn't always have the time to go Downtown to shop.

More wholesalers are venturing into retail territory. Callaway Golf is transforming 540 Madison Avenue into a 30,000 square-foot flagship, while Lagos fine jewelry is taking a prime Madison Avenue corner to showcase its designs. And the trend-conscious American designer Jill Stuart is heading to SoHo for her first retail outpost.

Local and unique food operations are becoming mini-chains, opening multiple sites in Manhattan. Cosi, Hale & Hearty, Sandbox and Daily Soup are all run by savvy entrepreneurs capitalizing on Manhattan's growing taste for more upscale take-out options.

The expansion of the mega-retailers and mega-movieplexes is also continuing. Virgin Records' Times square emporium will be joined by a new unit opening on Union square this summer. HMV Records will open in Harlem in 1999, and Barnes and Noble will establish a second store on East 86th Street in early 1999. AMC's 25-screen movie theaters are under construction on West 42nd Street; United Artists will open this summer in the same 14th Street project as Virgin Records; and Cineplex Odeon will build a multiplex in Harlem.

The "peripheral" neighborhoods of Manhattan continue to be transformed. While it may be tough to reach the area by public transportation, the success of Chelsea's gallery district, its Chelsea Piers Sports Complex and its Chelsea Market have proven that people will travel - if there is something worthwhile to travel to.

Formerly dormant districts like Madison square, just north of Flatiron, are being reinvigorated by an influx of interesting retail tenants. Restaurants like The Globe, 27 Standard and the eagerly awaited new dining spots to be opened in 11 Madison Avenue by Union square Cafe's Danny Meyer, go a long way toward making this neighborhood a destination point.

Conversions of older office and hotel properties into imaginatively updated lodges for the next millennium's travelers are continuing at a heightened pace. Bernard Goldberg has recently opened the sleek Rafael Vignoly re-designed Roger Williams Hotel; fan Schrager plans to revamp the former Henry Hudson Hotel and additional properties on Astor Place and West 40th Street. The chic traveler now can put his or her head down in a greater variety of chic settings.

A further sign of New York's vibrancy, and a cause for elation among retailers, is the increased pedestrian activity around town. Trying to navigate through Midtown became nearly impossible this past holiday season. Mayor Giuliani even set up blockades to corral the uncooperative foot traffic. With more people moving to New York, and more tourists visiting each year, it is no wonder why there is a month's wait to get a reservation at the popular restaurant Balthazaar, or why Lion King tickets are sold out a year in advance.

There are long lines to bowl at Chelsea Piers, or to catch a movie at Sony's 68th Street Multiplex, and one has to stand in line to use a dressing room at J. Crew, Club Monaco, Banana Republic or The Gap. It's no wonder why local, national and international retailers are getting in line for the right retail address.
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus on Commercial Sales & Leasing
Author:Fox, Benjamin
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 20, 1998
Previous Article:Fairfield's strength will fuel Westchester rents and stability.
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