Will NYC Finally Do Something about All Its Vacant Storefronts?

Tekserve, a beloved, independently-owned computer and camera store — "the Apple store before there were Apple Stores" — on 23rd Street in Manhattan before it was forced to close in 2016. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

Once you notice it for the first time, you can’t go back to not noticing it, and it seems to get worse every year. I’m talking about storefront vacancy in Manhattan, and across NYC.

It just doesn’t make sense. NYC sidewalks and storefronts should be prime commercial real estate, given that NYC residents — not to mention tourists — walk everywhere. Only a quarter of Manhattan households have a car, and only half of all NYC households have a car, according to the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

When freelance web developer Justin Levinson took note of Manhattan’s storefront vacancy in 2016, he did what web developers do — he mapped them.

The New York Times this year responded to the city’s alarming spike in storefront vacancy and sent a photographer and reporters around the city to document it, publishing its findings earlier this month. Some 20 percent of storefronts are vacant in New York City, up from 7 percent in 2016, the real estate brokerage firm Douglas Elliman told the New York Times.

And now, finally, New York City Council is moving forward with a provision that may help address the spike in commercial vacancy. Sources confirmed to Crain’s New York this week that the council will finally hold a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, sometime before the end of October.

Aptly timed, the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a citywide network of nonprofit affordable housing developers and tenant organizations, also this week launched the #EndCommercialVacancy campaign to address the issue. The association and its allies believe the Small Business Jobs Survival Act will keep more current businesses in place rather than letting their spaces go vacant because of exorbitant rent increases that do not align with actual market conditions.

Different versions of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act have been proposed in New York City Council since 1984, each time struck down because of lightly-examined constitutionality concerns — which some still level at the current bill. Under the current version, Crain’s reports, the bill would entitle any commercial tenant who has complied with the terms of their lease to a 10-year renewal and the right to force the negotiations into binding arbitration if the new terms are contested — perhaps because of an exorbitant rent increase.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district includes Manhattan’s West Village, Chelsea, the west side of Midtown including Times Square and the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods, endorsed the bill last year, Crain’s notes. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio opposes the bill, but has not had to wield a veto, because the bill was stalled in city council by Johnson’s predecessor as council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act was one of several policies examined in a 2016 report on how cities are grappling with a spike in commercial rents, which Next City covered at the time. That report, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, cited a complex web of causes for the rise in rents, beginning with rampant real estate speculation.

“There’s a tremendous amount of footloose global capital that is looking for a place to get returns. Where a lot of that capital has landed is in urban real estate,” Stacy Mitchell, co-author of the report and co-director of the Institute, told Next City at the time. “So there’s this speculative run-up in prices that has little to do with the actual economics of a particular building.”

Mitchell also pointed out the particular nature of the kind of capital flooding urban markets — it comes with a bias against local businesses. “If you’re buying a building or renovating a building or developing a building with commercial space, if you have signed national-brand tenants, you’re going to get a better interest rate and better terms on that loan than if you’ve signed a locally owned business,” she said.

Signing a national-brand tenant can even be the difference between getting financing or not getting financing for a commercial or mixed-use development project, according to Mitchell. Local businesses that could even pay those higher rents can still get shunned by developers. “If you’re doing a development in Salt Lake City and the money is from a national source, they don’t know the King’s English Bookshop and they don’t know that’s a viable business,” she explained. “But they know who Starbucks is.”

 

Houston Chooses Buses Instead of Light Rail, For Now

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation developments worldwide.

Houston Turns to BRT to Expand Rapid Transit

Houstonians have been arguing loudly for several years over plans to expand the city’s light rail system. Now the local transit agency, Houston Metro, has decided to cast its lot mainly with faster buses as the way forward for long-range transit improvements, according to a Houston Chronicle news report.

The $3.32 billion package of transportation improvements Metro is readying for a public vote next year doesn’t give up on light rail extensions completely. However, even though the three proposed light rail extensions total only 12 miles — less than the length of extensions built between 2013 and 2017 — they account for nearly half of the proposal’s estimated price tag: $1.52 billion.

The remaining half will create 34 miles of bus rapid transit lines, using dedicated lanes on freeways and major arteries, serving mainly areas west of downtown. The plan also envisions additional two-way HOT lanes on major freeways.

One of the BRT routes would follow Interstate 10 west from downtown and connect with a planned Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line.

Houston Metro officials stress that the first step needed to get the plan ready for a vote is clear and open communication with communities that will be affected by the proposed expansions.

Carbon-Fiber Light Rail Vehicle Unveiled in China

People have been flying in airplanes made primarily of carbon-fiber composites since the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight in 2011. Soon, they will be able to board lighter light rail vehicles made of carbon fiber as well.

China’s Xinhua news agency reports that the country’s largest railcar manufacturer, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd., rolled out its new-generation carbon-fiber light rail vehicle at an exhibition in Changchun. The car should produce significant energy savings because it weighs 30 percent less than an LRV made of stainless steel. It also has better thermal and sound insulation, making it quieter and more comfortable when in operation.

The new railcars are designed to hold 386 passengers and operate at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph). It’s also designed to operate wirelessly, with a supercapacitor that can run the car for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) on a single two-minute charge.

Frankfurt Tests Package Delivery by Tram

Some critics of spending on urban rail transit instead of highways point out that streetcars and subways can’t be used to deliver goods. That may be about to change.

Metro Report International reports that VGF, which operates the public transit network in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, announced on Sept. 17 that it is launching a pilot program to deliver packages using dedicated trams.

The package-delivery trams will carry no passengers and operate during periods of lower traffic on the tram lines. Some will be outfitted with cargo trailers. The trams will deliver parcels to “microdepots” being set up for the pilot program.

The project is being run in partnership with the package delivery service Hermes Germany. Other partners include the city of Frankfurt, the House of Logistics and Mobility, the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, IHK Frankfurt am Main and the Climate Alliance.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

 

Carl Hansen & Son opens its latest flagship store in Pimlico

Third generation Danish furniture brand, Carl Hansen & Son, has opened its second London store in the heart of Pimlico.
 

sP+a constructs brick vaulted library for a school in india


conceived as an extension of the ground plane, the scheme responds to children's preference of landscape over man-made structures with an accessible roof.

The post sP+a constructs brick vaulted library for a school in india appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.

 

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

WowHaus
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

The competition to win one is still open, but if you miss out, you can opt for this Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

Our Huf Haus section is becoming a bit of a UK map for these particular German properties due to so many being featured. Why so many? Well, they are always incredibly popular when I put one on the site, so if I see one, I try to feature it.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

This one is in a sought after location, with the agent describing it as a ‘highly regarded road’ as well as a a private ‘tucked away’ location, set behind electrically operated gates and approached via a gravelled driveway.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

When you do approach it, there’s no mistaking this for anything but a Huf Haus. As you probably know, the Huf Haus is a design and build concept out of Germany, producing prefabricated homes inspired by the Bauhaus movement.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

They were a little ‘under the radar’ in the Uk until one featured on Grand Designs some years back. After that, there was a mini boom in Huf Haus builds and as a result, the German company has designed and built several all over the UK, many of which have come onto the market in recent years.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

This one is the most recent, offering all the trademarks of the typical Huf Haus. That includes open, flowing living space (including a double height reception), the beams, the balconies and of course, the walls of glass.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

What you possibly can’t see are the premium finishes and the craftsmanship. Every Huf Haus is made and built to exacting standards, with this one also offering sound-proofing, under-floor heating, windows with insulating glass, electrically operated window blinds and plenty of built-in storage, including the loft.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

This one offers 3,371 sq. ft. of living space, with the entrance opening into a vestibule that leads through to the principal rooms.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

The open-plan sitting room, dining room and kitchen/breakfast room are on the ground floor, with a contemporary wood burning stove adding a focal point to the reception space. There’s also a large sliding door opens the room out to a paved patio and the kitchen area is fitted with all the high end finishes and appliances you would expect of this kind of house.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

Also located on the ground floor is a study, a guest bedroom with an en suite shower room and a cloakroom.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

A central staircase goes up to a galleried landing on the first floor, around which the bedrooms are arranged. The master bedroom has an en suite bathroom, a walk-in wardrobe and direct access to a balcony, while the other three bedrooms are described as ‘well-proportioned’ and with access to balconies. Finally, there is a family bathroom with separate shower and bath.

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

Outside space too, which is made up of landscaped gardens and a separate double garage.

Of course, it doesn’t come cheap at £1,950,000, but if you win the Lotto this week, you know where to look.

Images and details courtesy of Strutt and Parker. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit the website.

 

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire

 

Modernist Huf Haus property in Ascot, Berkshire
Modernist Huf Haus  in Ascot, Berkshire

 

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BMW and south african artist esther mahlangu catapult ndebele art to the world


on a recent trip to south africa with BMW group culture, designboom met esther mahlangu, saw her latest BMW art car venture and learned about her current projects.

The post BMW and south african artist esther mahlangu catapult ndebele art to the world appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.

 

big multifunctional shelf at park avenue, NY, features lush green gardens, by studio 101


the proposal provides diverse programs, spaces, and views for the public, as well as much more green space than existing conditions.

The post big multifunctional shelf at park avenue, NY, features lush green gardens, by studio 101 appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.

 

sony is bringing back the playstation classic and its loaded with its best games


sony is bringing back the original playstation as a miniature console called the playstation classic, almost 25 years after its initial release.

The post sony is bringing back the playstation classic and its loaded with its best games appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.

   

cyril lancelin fills ligne roset store with an inflatable maze of golden arches for LDF 2018


the inflatable structure is the result of two extruded, continuous lines that, in three dimensions, create a complex environment.

The post cyril lancelin fills ligne roset store with an inflatable maze of golden arches for LDF 2018 appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.

 



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