Things finally felt somewhat normal again just a couple of months ago after the city first entered the COVID-19 lockdown. New Yorkers waited in line for brunch, brought their furry friends out to the dog run, and enjoyed cocktails and liquor on a rooftop like there’s no tomorrow. Other than having the children or roommates around all the time, noticing masks on people’s faces, and all the metro cards most people no longer need but still keep in their wallet for nostalgic reasons, it seemed that the city finally reached new normalcy.
Many businesses that were temporarily closed reopened their shop to serve the residents. However, while outdoor dining, open streets, and limited indoor capacity have certainly helped small businesses across the city, remote-working and the lack of tourists continue to threaten the livelihood of restaurants, gift stores, coffee shops, and other businesses that rely heavily on walk-in customers.
As coronavirus cases surge across the nation and the 7-day test positivity rate reaching 3% in New York City, COVID-19 once again puts the future of businesses in jeopardy. And it’s not just the tenants who are struggling. Landlords also suffer as their retail tenants find ways to make ends meet.
To better understand how the city has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the data science team at RentHop walked through three major cross streets in Midtown Manhattan – 14th Street, 34th Street, and 42nd Street – and counted the number of empty storefronts, including stores for lease and places no longer in business, between First Avenue and 10th Avenue.
The map below highlights all the vacant storefronts we collected.
14th Street: 65 storefronts are empty, 14% higher than in October
14th Street is considered one of the most important crosstown streets in Manhattan. Often seen as the border between Lower and Midtown Manhattan, the 14th street is where many people go when it comes to food and entertainment.
Our research shows that of the 300+ storefronts, large and small, located between First Avenue and 10th Avenue on 14th Street, 65, or 20.4%, of them are currently vacant or for lease. This number is slightly higher than in October. Last month, we counted 57 empty storefronts.
Some stretches have struggled more than the others. For instance, the block in the Meatpacking District (between Ninth Avenue and 10th Avenue) currently has 14 empty storefronts, 40% of the total retail spaces on the block.
34th Street: 42 storefronts are vacant, 24% higher than in October
34th Street had always been the go-to place for NYC residents, whether for shopping, dining, or business-related tasks. In October, in total 34 stores were up for lease or empty. This month, the number has risen to 42, 21.6% of all the storefronts on the street.
Between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, there are more vacant storefronts than open businesses. Meanwhile, of the 37 storefronts on the block between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, 12, or 32.4%, are currently empty or up for lease.
And it’s not just the mom-and-pop shops facing dire financial straits due to COVID-19. Some notable retail stores have also argued that the pandemic has drastically altered the retail scene in the City of New York. The once glorious Victoria’s Secret flagship store in Herald Square is now all boarded up while the parent company tries to work out the terms with the landlord, SL Green, in court.
42nd Street: 31% of the Storefronts are not in business, highest among the major crosstown streets
42nd Street is known as the site of some of the most prominent buildings and organizations in New York, including Times Square, Chrysler Building, the UN, and Grand Central. The robust street scenes on 42nd Street are mostly fueled by business professionals as well as tourists from all over the world. And not surprisingly, since the pandemic has basically halted tourism and discouraged New Yorkers from returning to the office, 42nd Street is emptier than ever.
Based on our research, there are around 174 storefronts on 42nd Street, and as of this month, 53 of them, or 30.5%, are vacant. This number is 17.8% higher than in October. Places such as Starbucks have been actively consolidating locations in the city to cut down costs in response to significant decreases of walk-in visitors.
While such plans are a good strategy for nationwide and global enterprises, they imply more empty storefronts and severe financial losses among landlords owning and managing retail spaces across the city.
As the city prepares for new restrictions concerning the surging confirmed cases, more businesses could fold before things return to normalcy again.
For the purpose of this report, an empty storefront is a retail space with a “for lease” sign out on the window, door, or the shop signage. It also refers to a space that “went dark” (i.e. the tenant has ceased operations at the leased space) with signs posted on the door indicating that they are no longer in business.
All of the data included in this report was collected by the RentHop data science team. We walked through the three major crosstown streets and manually marked and counted each empty store. For the month of November, the data was collected between November 11 and November 14, 2020. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or feedback regarding the report.