Another Canal Street Building Up for Lease, to Contribute to "Manhattan's Next Great Retail Frontier"?

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By Paul Bisceglio


When most New Yorkers think of Canal Street, they probably don't think of quality retail. There the goods tend to come rolled out on street vendor mats with the brands misspelled, not behind glass windows in fine shopping plazas.

Melinda Miller of Winick Realty Group, however, wants to usher in a new era for the downtown commercial street famous for its open storefronts, questionable electronic imports and tourist-grabbing counterfeits.

"For Canal Street, it's a question of when, not if, the neighborhood will see its moment as the next great retail destination in the city," she said in a recent company statement

Miller is marketing 272-274 Canal Street, a four-story, 1,800 square-feet-per-floor brick building at the northwest corner of Cortlandt Alley next to the new Tribeca Blu Hotel. As it stands, the building is unremarkable, but its owners, the Gindi family, have some big plans for its next retailer: a new glass façade and significant new signage.

"The beauty of Canal Street is that it sits at the apex of several Manhattan neighborhoods -- namely Soho, Tribeca, Chinatown, Little Italy, Hudson Square and the Lower East Side," Miller said in the statement, which added, "The potential for exposure rivals that of virtually any major street in Manhattan."

Canal Street's small individual storefronts distinguish it from most of the city's other highly trafficked shopping districts, where large landlords own large retail spaces. Property owners, business people and the street's vendors have been tracking the area's shift towards the city's more conventional commercialism for years, however.

"Canal is on its last legs," a watch-peddler [told New York Press] back in 2010. "They want to make this a franchise block."

Albert Laboz, a principal with United American Land, a major landlord on the street, agrees. On fashion retailer [Necessary Clothing's recent leasing of 261-263 Canal Street], Laboz told the Real Deal: "It is further evidence that Canal Street is really becoming an extension of Broadway in Soho."

He said that he could not recall a larger deal in the area over the past decade.

"I think it is slowly starting to change. But I think the city cracking down on the illegal sales [of knockoff products] is going to be the biggest driver," Ariel Schuster, executive vice president at retail brokerage RKF, told the Real Deal in a [separate story] on retailer landlords cashing in on Canal Street.

Not everyone shares Miller's vision of the street as "Manhattan's next great retail frontier," however. Michael Glanzberg, a principal with Soho-based brokerage Sinvin Real Estate, for instance, told the Real Deal that he and others believe that higher-paying customers will avoid mixing with Canal's discounted and knock-off merchants.

"From the standpoint of someone who represents upper-end and high-end retail, Canal Street really holds no place for those folks," he said. "It is the merchandise. There is a demographic and a shopper on Canal Street that is drastically different from what you find even a block north in Soho."

Canal Street's fate is not sealed, in other words, but everyone knows in which direction it currently is headed.

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