The Upper West Side’s Past and Present Renaissance
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Nothing says the holidays are upon us like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We spent a recent drizzly morning with Eastern Consolidated principal Adelaide Polsinelli and New York Historical Tours director Kevin Draper, who pointed out some highlights of the retail real estate and history along one of the parade route’s most famous stretches: the 60s and Lower 70s on the Upper West Side.
The parade started in 1924 to help get people in the holiday shopping spirit and was called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, Kevin tells us. Although even that first year it was on Thanksgiving, it wasn’t branded as the Thanksgiving Day Parade until its second year—a move Kevin says was meant to broaden its appeal beyond just New Yorkers who celebrated Christmas. There is additional information
Everybody knows Miracle on 34th Street. Kevin says the famous opening sequence was the first scene from a major motion picture to be shot with multiple cameras at a public event. Kevin tells us that Macy’s would allow film crews to shoot, but only if they didn’t have to slow the parade down. Worried about missing anything, 20th Century Fox used every camera they had—about 18 of them—for the scene. And Macy’s had another condition it imposed on the production: they’d get final control over the edit once the film was in the can. We’re gonna go out on a limb and guess they liked it alright.
The Dakota, at 72nd Street and Central Park West, is probably the most famous building fronting the park. The story goes that when it was being built, in the 1880s, its developer, Edward Clark, was told by nay-sayers that he might as well build in what's now North and South Dakota (which weren't even states at that time), since that part of Manhattan was mostly undeveloped.
These days, we take for granted that luxury residential real estate in big cities is pretty much all about multifamily buildings. But Kevin says The Dakota brought about a paradigm shift among the wealthy: who needs a mansion with servants and no view of the city, when you could have a mansion in the sky with a nice view and a doorman to take care of your mail or whatever else you need? It was a brand-new idea, and Kevin says it caught on quickly, with developers building similar buildings all over the city within a few years.
If you’re lucky enough to watch the parade out your window in The Dakota, you’re gonna need snacks. You might look to Trader Joe’s at 2073 Broadway. Most of its space is in the basement, a set-up Adelaide says can help a retailer that doesn’t need as much frontage avoid paying the $400/SF that ground-floor rents in the immediate area command.
The rise in rents along Broadway in the 60s and low 70s has been rapid. Ground-floor retail rents at 69th & Broadway were just $150 to $200/SF as recently as about a year and a half ago, when Adelaide arranged the sale of a percentage interest in a lease hold on a retail co-op at 2012 Broadway.
She traces the spike in rents to more affluent demographics coming into the area, as well as a convergence of higher-end retail like the Apple store at 1981 Broadway, which opened in 2009, and a Bloomingdale’s that’s opening soon with a 25k SF spread at 2081 Broadway. But she says on the side streets, you can still find ground-floor retail space at or even under $100/SF.