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Vacancy Along Manhattan's Broadway Has Gone Up Nearly 80%

170 Broadway in Manhattan

In yet another sign of the city’s retail woes, a survey of the stores along Broadway shows more than 300 of them are sitting empty.

The survey was run by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and her staff, The Wall Street Journal reports. In total, they recorded 335 street-level vacancies along the famed diagonal avenue late last month.

That figure represents a 78% increase from 2017, though it is not clear what the total vacancy rate is, because Brewer's office doesn't know how many stores are on the stretch.

Almost a third of vacant stories are between 14th and 59th streets, while a total of 42 of the stores were boarded up.

“The rent is so high, particularly on Broadway in Manhattan, that it’s hard for the small shops to make a go of it,” Brewer told the WSJ. “At this point, with the gates down and sometimes plywood on the storefront, you don’t know whether it’s going to be rented.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused major pain across New York City’s retail sector. While stores are now allowed to open their doors, scores of retailers and their landlords are locked in legal disputes over leases and rent obligations. Vornado is suing the U.S. Polo Association, claiming it owes more than $1.1M in unpaid rent for space at 1540 Broadway, for example. Crown Acquisitions has said it is facing foreclosure at 170 Broadway because tenant the Gap has been skipping on rent.

Retail vacancy had already jumped significantly before the crisis, too. Between 2007 and 2017 the amount of vacant retail space went from around 5.6M SF to over 11.8M SF, according to analysis from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office last year.

The report from Stringer, who announced his candidacy for mayor next year with a speech targeted at real estate, suggested the city offer tax credits for independent retailers and make it easier for retail space uses to be adapted.