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Study: Fashion District's pedestrian traffic is up 22%.

With pedestrian traffic up 22 percent over the past few years, the fashion district is a ripe for retail development, according to the Fashion Center Business Improvement District.

"It's an area that is clearly a major pedestrian corridor that has been somewhat overlooked by retailers," said Gerald Scupp, FCBID deputy director. "We think it deserves another look."

The figures were compiled from pedestrian counts conducted on behalf of the FCBID by economic consultant Robert Pauls. The district is defined as being from Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue between 35th and 41st Streets.

Pauls conducted weekday counts in October at four locations -- Sixth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, Eighth Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets, Seventh Avenue between, 38th and 39th Streets, and Broadway between 36th and 37th Streets. Counts were done from 7:30 to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 3:30 to 6 p.m. at each location.

The October counts were compared with counts done in September 1996, according to the FCBID.

Pedestrian traffic increased the most at the Sixth Avenue location with the total number of pedestrians jumping 35 percent, from 21,424 to 28,861, in the our-year period. The Eighth Avenue location saw a 26 percent jump, from 21,257 to 26,756, the Seventh Avenue location saw a 14 percent increase, from 28,683 to 32,750, and Broadway saw a 16 percent increase from 26,463 to 30,727, according to FCBID.

"The fashion district is being viewed in a different way," said Barbara Randall, executive director of the FDBIC. "Of course, we've always been home to the biggest and most exciting names in fashion, but now we're seeing the emergence of other creative industries."

Scupp said the counts were conducted to quantify the sense that streets in the district had become more crowded. While larger retailers may do similar demographic research, smaller retailers may not.

"We were quite surprised to see how dramatic the increases were," Scupp said.

FCBID attributes the increase to the new types of businesses that have moved into the ne neighborhood, which has traditionally be n home to fashion and design businesses.

Among new businesses are Internet companies, advertising agencies, and graphic design firms. The district has also benefited from the ongoing development of Times Square, which will house several new office buildings over the next few years.

"These significant pedestrian counts and the spending power of our new tenant base are paving way for a stronger retail environment in the district," said FCBID chairman George Kaufman. "Our traditional coffee, shops and delis have already gone 'gourmet' and national retailers are seeing the area in a new light."

Situated between Herald Square and Times Square, two popular retail and tourist destinations, the fashion district is a natural pedestrian corridor between the two areas. It is also close to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn Station and not far from the burgeoning residential development west of Eighth Avenue.

Both Times Square and Herald Square have benefited from new office and hotel development over the past decade, causing retail rents to escalate. The fashion district offers retailers lower rents and the opportunity to bring service-related businesses like pharmacies and banks to serve office workers, said Benjamin Fox, executive vice president of Newmark New Spectrum Retail LLC.

"What you're seeing on a grand scale is the merging of the two neighborhoods," Fox said.

Historically, the fashion district has attracted discount stores and fast food restaurants, but that has been changing. In the past few years, Godiva Chocolatier Inc., Children's Place, Duane Reade, and Office Depot have moved to West 41st Street.

"There are a lot of retailers looking at space on Broadway and Seventh Avenue in the Fashion District," Fox said.

Although he applauded the addition of those businesses to the neighborhood, Scupp said the fashion district still suffers from image problems. He is hoping, however, that some pioneering retailers will move into the area and help change its image.

"Somebody has to take the initiative," Scupp, said.

In addition to the weekday counts, Pauls also conducted Saturday counts at the four locations. On Sixth Avenue, the total volume was 11,808 Saturday versus 28,861 weekday and on Eighth Avenue Saturday volume was 16,784 versus 26,756 during the week. On Seventh Avenue Saturday saw 11,259 pedestrians versus 32,750 weekday and, on Broadway, there were 21,227 pedestrians Saturday versus 30,727 during the week, according to FCBID.

Scupp called the counts "significant," saying weekend counts are important for businesses like restaurant that depend on weekend customers. This is particularly important for an area like the fashion district where residential development is sparse.

"A restaurant can't survive on doing five lunches," he said.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 27, 2000
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