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These Were Manhattan’s Largest Retail Leases of 2021

In an unusual year, schools, fitness centers and supermarkets dominate the list

As Manhattan’s residential market boomed in 2021, office and retail landlords struggled through another year of pandemic-driven uncertainty.

While big-box stores and luxury brands have dominated previous years’ rankings of the borough’s top retail leases in terms of both square footage and rent, the tenants that topped this year’s list — charter schools, fitness chains and supermarkets — represented a sign of the times.

As major retailers have reduced their brick-and-mortar presence in the city during the pandemic, brokers that orchestrated the top deals say their clients were simply opportunistic.

“The folks that are out there are looking for bargains,” said Ross Eisenberg of RDE Advisors, who brokered one of the deals on this list.

Let’s see who else had an expansion mindset this year:

1. Zeta Charter School | 400 West 219th Street | 124,000 square feet

Adding to its portfolio of four city elementary schools, Zeta Charter School signed a long-term lease to occupy 124,000 square feet at the Inwood building planned by Bolivar Development. A Transwestern team of Stephen Powers, Lindsay Ornstein and Thomas Hines represented the school.

“They really needed a purpose built space,” Ornstein said. Bolivar filed plans for an eight-story school building on the site last February. Zeta expects its new location, which will serve students in pre-K through 8th grade, to open in time for the 2023-2024 school year.

2. Wegmans | 770 Broadway | 82,000 square feet

The future of the former Astor Place Kmart became a hot topic in the East Village after the retailer abruptly closed its doors in July. A week later, landlord Vornado Realty Trust teased that it had lined up a “first-class regional grocer” to take over the space. Wegmans signed an agreement with Kmart owner Transformco to buy out the lease at 770 Broadway, then inked a deal with Vornado that will yield its first Manhattan location, expected to open in 2023. RIPCO Real Estate represented Wegmans in the deal.

3. International Academy of Hope | 825 Seventh Avenue | 76,861 square feet

Another school made the list with a 30-year leasehold for a commercial condo at Vornado Realty Trust’s 825 Seventh Avenue. The school, which serves children with brain injuries, will occupy the second, third and fourth floors of the Midtown building. The new location allows non-profit school operator YAI to triple its enrollment.

JLL’s Matthew Astrachan, Simon Landmann and Zachary Azus represented the school, while Jeffrey Sussman of Edward J. Minskoff Equities and John Ryan III of Avison Young along with Vornado’s Edward Riguardi represented the landlord.

Among the challenges in finding the right home was that the school’s doors had to open on the right side of the street to allow for bus access without crossing the street.

“That knocks out, give or take, almost half of the city,” Astrachan said. “That was a little bit of a needle in the haystack.”

4. Chelsea Piers | 1 Madison Avenue | 55,780 square feet

Chelsea Piers signed a 20-year lease to open a 55,780-square-foot fitness center on parts of the ground, second and two basement floors of SL Green’s planned 26-story, 1.4 million-square-foot One Madison Avenue development. It will be Chelsea Piers’ fourth location in the city and second in Manhattan. JLL’s Erin Grace and Matt Ogle represented the fitness center in the deal. SL Green was represented in-house.

“When we started working with Chelsea Piers… the message was very clear. It was, we want phenomenal space,” Grace said.

5. Pearl Studios | 500 Eighth Avenue | 46,000 square feet

After closing at the beginning of the pandemic, the rehearsal space that has played host to numerous Broadway productions is reopening in the Garment District. Pearl Studios signed a 10-year lease for the third and fourth floors of the building, which it had previously occupied for more than a decade before shutting down in March 2020. Walter & Samuels’ Steve Forest represented the landlord, an investment group led by the firm’s chairman, David Berley, in the transaction.

6. Bathhouse | 7 West 21st Street | 34,328 square feet

Inking a lease for its first Manhattan location, high-end spa Bathhouse will move into a converted parking garage at 7 West 21st Street, where it will occupy 3,565 square feet on the ground level, 12,430 square feet in the basement and 18,333 square feet in the sub-basement. Newmark’s Jason Pruger and Lucas Kooyman represented landlords Friedland Properties and Rose Associates. Ross Eisenberg of RDE Advisors represented Bathhouse.

“Bathhouse is not a standard retail space, so it’s not like you find a big box,” Eisenberg said of converting the property. “Wherever you go, it’s going to be a lot of work involved.”

7. Trader Joe’s | 121 West 125th Street | 28,000 square feet

Occupying the ground-floor retail at the planned headquarters of the National Urban League, Trader Joe’s is making Harlem the home of its 13th New York City location. Along with Target, the supermarket will anchor the 17-story building, developed by a team that includes BRP, Dabar Development, L+M Development Partners, Taconic Partners and the Prusik Group, which will also have at least 170 units of low-income housing.

8. Gucci | 446 West 14th Street | 26,600 square feet

Although short-lived, Gucci inked a lease for a massive pop-up shop in the Meatpacking District to celebrate the luxury fashion house’s 100th anniversary. Thor Equities owns the building.

9. Museum of Broadway | 145 West 45th Street | 26,000 square feet

The Museum of Broadway snagged this Times Square location, where it is set to open this summer. The tenant will take over the cellar, part of the ground floor and all of the second and third floors of the 12-story building. Landlord Effy Hematian Realty was represented by Daniel Lolai of LSL Advisors, while the museum was represented by Cushman & Wakefield’s Amy Zhen and JLL’s Matthew Schuss.

10. Brooklyn Chophouse Times Square | 253 West 47th Street | 25,000 square feet

Taking over a space abandoned by Buffalo Wild Wings, Brooklyn Chophouse scooped up prime Times Square property, along with an already completed $15 million build out. The restaurant signed a 15-year lease. A Meridian Capital Group team of James Famularo and Yoni Hadar represented both landlord Friedland Properties and Brooklyn Chophouse in the deal.

“Normally, there would be 10 people fighting over this [space] and there would be a bidding war, but because it was Covid, we were really the only horse in the race,” Famularo said.

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