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Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

Midtown South’s office market sprouted in and around Union Square, and with it came surging retail demand. Retailers are using the low vacancy neighborhood to open new concepts.

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

Yesterday, we snapped Union Square Partnership head Jennifer Falk (who just celebrated her own birthday and the birth of twins Eliana and Asher) on the north side of Union Park. She tells us vacancy is a stunning 1.2% and the subway stop is the fourth busiest during the week and second busiest on weekends. Long gone is Union Square Park’s rep as Needle Park and 14th Street’s string of dollar stores and DVD purveyors.

1) Try new concepts

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

At the new Red Door at 17th and Park, we snapped co-manager Leah Mendez, flanked by colleagues Bezayda de Jesus and Fumi Arije. She tells us Elizabeth Arden, whose HQ is a few floors up in ABS Partners’ 200 Park Ave S, opened the spa Nov. 23, the first Red Door to target women on the go—with a 7am open and polish changes, blow drys, and the like.

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

The spa is in Rothmans’ old space. Jennifer says the menswear retailer has a loyal following that’ll follow it north to its new location in another ABS building, at 18th, above. (The few men who didn't hear about the move might discover how to pamper themselves at Red Door.) Plus, Rothmans got the chance to design a new store to showcase its younger, hipper apparel.

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

Red Door isn’t the first to try new concepts here, though. We snapped the Duane Reade at Broadway and 14th, the first 24-hour branch with expanded offerings like sushi and a beer bar. And a block east, Walgreens took over the second floor and had a grand reopening two weeks ago for a concept focused on health and daily living, including ready-to-eat wraps, veggies, fruit, and even sushi from the store's own sushi chef (a one-stop shop for salicylic acid and sashimi).

2) Basements are for more than storage

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

Reebok is building out Diesel’s old space in Buchbinder & Warren’s 1 Union Square West at the southwest corner of the park with traditional retail on the ground floor and a CrossFit gym in the basement. It'll all open in the spring. And while Red Door is trying its quick-stop concept on the ground floor, it still offers traditional services in the basement. Nordstrom Rack had been chomping at the bit for an NYC store and opened its first one in 2010 south of Union Square in the basement of Tower Records’ old digs (in our Duane Reade pic). Jennifer tells us foot traffic at Nordstrom Rack has squashed concern over the prospects for underground retail.

3) Make way for flagships

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

The neighborhood also has several flagship opps, Jennifer says. Shoe Mania left 853 Broadway at 14th and Broadway, and Feil emptied office tenants from the four floors above to create a 31k SF, five-story retail block being marketed to a retailer that wants to enter the Union Square submarket.

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

On 14th Street west of University, Ripco is marketing this Duane Reade and the adjacent stores. All three combine to form a 24k SF block, including basement space. We snapped the store yesterday, and see on Gothamist that the awning collapsed this morning.

Union Square’s Three New Retail Rules

We also walked farther west to 14th and Fifth, where the New School has 8,500 SF available on the ground floor of its new academic center and dorm building, though there are restrictions (like no food so as not to compete with its cafeteria).