SoHo rolls economically as buyers disappear in pandemic
“Without tourists, it’s dead here,” said Carlos Garcia, manager of Mystique Boutique, a local clothing store on Broadway that now closes at 7 pm, two hours earlier than before.
From November, travel restrictions will be eased for vaccinated international visitors, but city officials say it could take until 2025 for overseas tourism to return to previous levels.
SoHo faced challenges even before the pandemic, given the continued decline in brick-and-mortar retailing. But the problems have worsened amid the recession triggered by the pandemic and the explosion in online shopping that has accompanied it.
One of New York’s largest real estate companies, Vornado Realty Trust, recently sold two properties in SoHo, as well as several on Madison Avenue, at a loss of $ 7 million. Only a third of the storefronts of the buildings were occupied, the company said.
Still, neighborhood landowners and business leaders say there is cause for optimism. Pedestrian traffic has increased in recent months, as has the number of subway passengers at SoHo stations. New retailers are moving in, including the Wilson sporting goods brand’s first flagship store, and some startups are renting office space, though often for less money in the shorter term.
“Retail rents had become too high,” said Jeffrey Gural, president of GFP Real Estate, which owns several buildings in SoHo. “In some cases, they were taking the space for marketing, knowing that they weren’t going to be profitable stores. Those days are over.
Prior to the neighborhood’s current hardship, many residents and business owners were locked in a bitter dispute with the city over a rezoning project that would allow 3,200 new apartments, including hundreds of units below market rates. . The proposal raised concerns, common in SoHo for decades, that any changes would disrupt the character of an area that young artists put on the map half a century ago.