MTA offering cut-rate deals to fill retail space as NYC real estate market continues to drag – New York Post

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The MTA is making a push to fill empty retail space at iconic Big Apple subway stations — including considering filling the vacant storefronts with art installations.

A whopping 83% of retail space at Times Square, Columbus Circle and other transit hubs has been sitting empty as the city’s commercial real estate market remains hampered in the wake of the COVID pandemic — with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority desperate to fill the gap, according to a recent report by Crain’s New York Business.

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“Transit retail has to be looked at as eyes-on-the-street, as an amenity,” Susan Fine, a former MTA director of real estate, told the outlet.

“The urge to linger in the subway has gone,” Fine said. “When the spaces are dark, it makes the station feel unsafe. There’s nothing worse than an empty space.”

More than 80% of the retail space at MTA stations and transit hubs remains vacant in the wake of the pandemic. Robert Miller

According to Crain’s, just 57 of 195 available MTA retail spots have tenants, while 17 others are under construction and another 30 are in contract negotiations.

In March 2019 — before the pandemic wreaked havoc on real estate in the five boroughs — the transit agency had 326 retail spaces, with only 40% unoccupied.

Today, many MTA retail spots are being used as storage space, Crain’s reported.

Some retailers, like the Record Mart at the Times Square station, are no longer in business, City & State said.

Looking for a fix, the MTA has enlisted what a spokesperson called “creative programs and an aggressive marketing campaign to promote retail spaces in the subway system.”

That includes using empty spaces for art displays.

“That’s a wonderful alternative, at least until more retailers realize that the MTA is ready to make a deal to bring back business underground,” the spokesperson said.

There is optimism that the plan could work, including at the once-vibrant Columbus Circle station.

The MTA is launching a program to fill vacant retail space that remains largely unused following the pandemic. Robert Miller
The Record Mart at the Times Square subway station was forced to close after the panemic. Facebook/Record Mart NYC

“The economic return from the pandemic takes some time and I’m confident that businesses will want to have space in very popular and busy stations like Columbus Circle,” said state Assemblyman Tony Simore (D-Manhattan), whose district includes the West Side hub.

“It’s a good sign,” Simone told The Post on Monday. “It means the MTA is investing for the future.”

The move comes as the New York City retail market continues to struggle in the wake of the pandemic.

Empty retail space has doubled since COVID hit the city, with 11.2% of storefronts vacant compared to just 6% in 2019, according to Department of Finance data released earlier this month.

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