Rife with empty storefronts and intractable rent demands, New York’s retail vacancy problems are bad and getting worse, and according to a recent piece at The Atlantic, those problems could soon start to play out in other cities across America, too.
According to author Derek Thompson, “at least 20 percent of Manhattan’s street retail is vacant or about to become vacant,” and he sees “at least three interlinked causes” playing into the problem.
First, as he said, “the rent… is too damn high,” which isn’t necessarily new news, but important nonetheless. Second, “the pain of soaring rents is exacerbated by the growth of online shopping,” a notion backed up by the dearth of warehouse space across the country, which “has officially reached an all-century low.”
The third reason, however, might be the most important one. According to Thompson, “Many landlords don’t want to offer short-term leases to pop-up stores if they think a richer, longer-term deal is forthcoming from a national brand with money to burn,” even when there’s no indication that any long-term tenants are coming.
So instead of “quirky restaurants, curious antique shops, and any coffee shops that aren’t publicly traded on the NYSE” lining the country’s most vibrant city’s most vibrant streets, “stores are closed, the lights are off, and the windows are plastered with for-lease signs.”
If this was just an isolated problem, it would rate no higher than MTA issues on the Nationwide Concern Scale. But, unfortunately, Thompson writes that, “New York’s problems today are an omen for the future of cities.”
Those cities, in his estimation, will be “an experiment in mass commodification,” and like New York already is, they’ll be priced too high for all the eccentricity and charm that once drove their cultural cores. And who wants to visit that?
You can read more about it at The Atlantic.