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A Walk Through Union Square

New York
A Walk Through Union Square
Union Square Partnership executive director Jennifer Falk
Union Square hasn't been immune to the recession, but focusing on completing the park's north end renovation, keeping sidewalks clean, the district safe, and pedestrian counts at their highest levels has kept the neighborhood healthy, Union Square Partnership executive director Jennifer Falk tells us. Available space has been quickly snapped up, offering some of the lowest vacancies in the city-3% for retail and 7% for office. We snapped this of Jennifer on a slide in the park's new 15k SF Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed playground. Between this and a new art installation, USP has finished a $20M construction program, and is now working on traffic improvement around the neighborhood with the DOT. This will include a new bike path and a new plaza with seating along Broadway and 17th St., she says.
Gazillion Bubble Show in Union Square Park
The four-day-a-week Greenmarket farmer's market has benefited from the economic health of the entire neighborhood, and is the top reason many outside visitors come to the area, she says. Synergistic restaurants, yoga and pilates studios, and stores like Lululemon Athletica at 15 Union Square West have since followed. USP is also focusing more on programming, including the annual Summer In The Square entertainment series that provides free yoga, dance lessons, concerts, and more every Thursday through Aug. 12. (We snapped The Gazillion Bubble Show entertaining the crowd.) USP also kicked off ticket sales for the 15th annual Harvest In The Square food and wine tasting on Sept. 21, featuring more than 60 of Union Square's best bites, including Union Square Cafe,Tocqueville, and Blue Water Grill.
Newmark Knight Frank's Ken Salzman
If Union Square could be called anything, it would be a microcosm of Manhattan, says Newmark Knight Frank director Ken Salzman. And he's certainly the person to ask-not only has he brokered many deals in the market, but he's also lived and raised a family there since the early '90s (almost as long as Gandhi's been in the park), serves as the president of his 495-unit co-op's board, and is treasurer for the BID portion of the Union Square Partnership. The submarket is faring well, despite the economy, he says. Thank its varied floorplates, unparalleled transportation options, and a diverse community. It's particularly attractive to small and mid-sized businesses because of the space options, from lofts starting in the low-to-mid $20s/SF to office buildings taking in a high of $50/SF.
Union Square Park facing west
There's something for everyone, and the market allows you to grow, he says. Ken just worked on a 10k SF lease for a tech company that has grown from four people to 45 and incubated at 19th and Fifth. There's a misnomer that the area is dominated by media and tech, but you can find every tenant from the fashion designer to hedge fund, he points out. And its retail is as assorted as its office tenants, from the local mom-and-pop to the national big-box retailer, he adds-you hardly see empty space. The transportation and foot traffic has contributed to Union Square stores being some of the retailers' best, he says.
One Union Square South retail
One of Union Square's newest tenants, Nordstrom Rack, opened up 32k SF store in Virgin Megastore's former space at One Union Square South this past May. The neighborhood's vibrancy and diversity was a terrific fit for the retailer, which offers a mix of clearance and special Rack merchandise for up to 60% off of regular Nordstrom prices, says spokesperson Colin Johnson. It also puts it in a highly trafficked corridor with stores like Forever 21, Filene's Basement, and DSW. Nordstrom's encouraged by sales so far, he says-and it's been a great learning experience on how to operate a store in Manhattan.