The West End's Come A Long Way, But Still Has Room To Grow
Almost every area of NYC has been revitalized over the last few decades, but the West End’s transformation has been particularly dramatic, going from a desolate and crime-ridden industrial wasteland to an intimate, family-friendly residential hub primed for retail opportunities, according to the panelists of Bisnow’s first ever Evolution of SoHo, TriBeCa and Hudson Square event.
Madison Equities CEO Robert Gladstone (second from left) told the crowd about his days driving a cab in the 1970s, when the SoHo area was abandoned with the exception of those who “were doing no good.”
During 10 Sullivan St’s development process, he said he met with the block’s residents, who told him the streets used to be trolled at night by “pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and club bangers.” West of Sixth Avenue was also languishing, Hudson Square Connection CEO and president Ellen Baer (second from right) said, as the abandoned industrial space lay dormant.
After Mayor Ed Koch introduced the 421-a, the development community realized SoHo and TriBeCa had the potential for fresh product.
“We wanted to build something that would attract people who were sick of the cookie cutter,” Robert said, “and there’s nothing cookie cutter about this area, across any of the asset classes.”
As residents started flocking to the new residential developments, TAMI companies took over the industrial structures, creating “an intimate, small-town feel.” The seedy clubs were replaced with schools and parks with charging stations, greenery and lighting, and the nightly streets were filled with dog walkers, rather than more troubling elements.
“It’s like if Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in the club and woke up in a Montessori school,” Robert joked.
But, despite now boasting the nation’s most expensive residential prices and highest per capita income, the city’s best schools and safety, and even impressive retail tenants mere blocks away, ABS Partners Real Estate partner John Brod (left) said the area has been ignored by retail developers until recently. For the longest time, Robert said, the area around 10 Sullivan St had only one restaurant.
Robert said it’s only a matter of time before retail will naturally spread to the area. There are ideal retail locations and ground-floor opportunities—such as 10 Sullivan Street’s ground-floor retail condo where the event was held—and the area has seen a 45% increase in pedestrian activity in the last six years.
As the area stands on the cusp of a retail boom—John’s seen more restaurants set up shop, always a strong precursor—it needs to continue to take advantage of its intimacy and personality.
But, Ellen said, it's important the industry doesn’t “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” and allow this retail to naturally evolve.
“We’re a walking city where cars are the enemy, so this isn’t a place for big box retail,” she said, “And with it mainly being a residential area, homegoods stores will thrive more than Fifth Avenue fare.”