Ghost Town

Reade vacant storefront“Can someone write an article about the businesses in Tribeca that are priced out & kept vacant for a year?” tweeted Alexis Pereira. I enthusiastically retweeted it—and then I realized I was the likeliest candidate to actually do the legwork.

I walked every street from Murray north and from Broadway west, taking photos of all the vacant storefronts. I didn’t include the ones where we know something is coming (or can assume as much, because of the work being done inside), new buildings where the amount of retail is unknown, or anything on Canal Street, because that’s an entirely different ecosystem from the rest of Tribeca (although it too is decimated, especially the north side).

I found 100. I would never have guessed there were that many—only by cataloging them can you really see the scope of what’s happening. Scroll down to see what I mean.

The sheer amount of inventory should turn this into a renter’s market, and yet we have a long list of businesses that have wanted to renew or move within the neighborhood, only to be priced out. The consensus from everyone I speak with seems to be that owners, seeing the direction the neighborhood has been going in, are willing to wait for a tenant who’ll pay for the privilege of being here. The problem, it seems to me, is that even if Tribeca continues to get aggressively developed, it will never be a high-density neighborhood when developers keep building 4,000-square-foot, single-family apartments. And the lack of corresponding foot traffic is what caps the amount of money any business can make here. You could argue that workers from FiDi will help fill the void, but there’s an obscene amount of retail coming online to the south—at Brookfield Place, the World Trade Center, the South Street Seaport, the Fulton Center, 28 Liberty (200,000 square feet!)…. That’s also where chains are going to want to be, because tourists are there, too; Tribeca, I’d theorize, then gets left to the independent businesses. Of which there are fewer and fewer….

There’s an article in Governing, sent over by Anna, which goes into possible ways to help this situation, but I’m not hopeful.

West Tribeca

Central Tribeca

East Tribeca