LONG after its purported demise, SoHo is not only alive and well but is thriving as a mixed retail environment.

Sure, September 11 knocked the wind out of its sales and rents, but that was true of the entire city. SoHo simply suffered more than other areas as tourists and locales cocooned at home.

The defining moments for its rebirth, experts agree, came with Bloomingdale’s decision to move forward after September 11 and sign a lease in the fall of 2001.

“It gave an optimism that this part of Manhattan was back,” said Faith Hope Consolo, Chairman, Retail Leasing and Sales Division of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Since its inception in the late 1970s, SoHo has been largely anchorless. The 1990s saw it transformed into a mishmash of stores that took over spaces from priced-out galleries.

Robert Pressman of Studley, Bloomie’s broker, said: “At 125,000 square feet, it is the only large store. It basically anchored Broadway and created a shopping center community atmosphere. Now there is a rebalancing.”

The high-end luxury retailers, like Mont Blanc and Coach, have since been joined by a broader mix of make-up, fashion, and furnishings tenants, creating what all concur is a healthier retail environment.

And while rents skyrocketed before September 11 and then dropped precipitously, they are now resurging.

Consolo says newer leases are being signed at re-adjusted, “realistic” numbers in the high $200s – a foot down from the unsustainable $400s.

New tenants are opening and current tenants are no longer complaining, Consolo added.

Some of the side street stores have made deals in the low $100s a foot, noted Christopher Owles, managing director of Sinvin Realty.

“If you do the SoHo circle from Houston down Broadway and West Broadway, there are good, interesting shops. They are not all filled in but they are coming,” said Owles.

For instance, Adidas Originals opened on an otherwise quiet section of Wooster Street and is doing great business, as is the large black Adidas store that just opened in May at 610 Broadway at on the north side of Houston Street, technically in NoHo.

Bloomingdale’s has influenced the expansion of retail as well as the rents south along Broadway.

“Below Spring wasn’t so good but now it’s strong between Spring and Broome,” said Laura Pomerantz, a principal of PBS Realty Advisors.

Further south, at 40 Mercer, which borders both Broadway and Grand Streets, hotelier Andre Balazs and Hines are creating a luxury residential project designed by Jean Nouvel SP.

Project retail broker Robert K. Futterman, who heads his eponymous nationwide company, said it will have 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of retail on two levels.

“It will be all high end, better tenants, not only because of the project itself but also the architect,” Futterman said.

Balazs is also creating an entirely ground-up 11-story residential project dubbed One Kenmare Square at 210 Lafayette Street. This sits on the westerly edge of SoHo overlooking NoLIta between Spring and Broome and behind the west side of Bloomies on Crosby Street.

SoHo retail and art specialist, Susan Penzner of Susan Penzner Real Estate, said: “Retailers still consider SoHo a location for branding, but the art galleries are now upstairs.”

Additionally, new property owners and managers are pushing SoHo’s buttons to make doing business easier.

When 350 W. Broadway was developed 15 years ago, to avoid prohibitions against certain first floor uses, the owner used steps and did away with the first floor designation. The space remained vacant.

The new net-lessee, the Lighthouse Group, obtained a variance and is re-developing the building into an extraordinary new retail environment.

Owles says it will create a connection between the Soho Grand hotel to the south and the high end retailers north of Broome.

It will open soon with two 8,000 foot floors plus a basement and an asking rent of $175 a foot for the ground and $60 for the second floor.

The operators are also seeking to create a residential project above.

“SoHo is also pushing towards its edges,” noted Owles.

Whenever the economy is weaker, Owles says, the retail becomes centered along Prince, West Broadway, Spring and Broadway -which are the three busiest streets.

“They are timeless and there are occasionally vacancies, but they are a very stable part of the market,” said Owles.

One of those edges is the continued march down the wide Broadway corridor.

“A lot of retailers who can’t afford to be on Broadway in SoHo are recognizing that Broadway is drawing tourists south of Canal Street as well as the shoppers and TriBeCa, SoHo and the new City Hall residents,” said Victor Menkin, president of Menkin Realty Services, who is representing building at 408 Broadway a mere 80 feet south of Canal.

This could turn into a 50,000 square-foot retail play, Menkin said. Street level rents in this section run from $85 to $125 a foot.

“As the Financial District and the City Hall areas are evolving, that corridor is also coming into its own,” added Menkin.

Hip and happening – which district is top?

TWO of the city’s hippest retail areas have their own personalities, retail stores and hospitality venues.

“SoHo and the Meatpacking District are very dissimiliar in the sense of when they are most of active and when they reach mass appeal,” said club and restaurant broker Steven Kamali of Stevens & Co.

The SoHo Community Board is discouraging liquor licenses so all the new restaurants are rolling into the Meatpacking District. This is creating a Mardi Gras atmosphere, Kamali says, as pedestrians and limos roll from spot to spot.

“It has the most outrageous nightlife in Manhattan right now, with the most desirable restaurants and nightspots,” he added.

Kamali just completed the sublease of 44 Ninth Avenue on the northeast corner of 14th Street in the Meatpacking District to a new venture, Diner.

Restaurateurs Sergio Riva of Candela and Marc Packer, known for Tao, have come together to create Diner as the District’s first 24-hour eatery. It is expected to have a bustling bar scene and 100 dining spots.

SoHo is not down and out, however. It still wins the shopping experience, due to the extensive variety of stores.

Tale of the Tape

Meatpacking vs. SoHo

Gansevoort Hotel & Soho House HOTELS Mercer Hotel and 60 Thompson

Meat and stilettos SHOPPING AMBIENCE Tourists and plenty of shoppers

Ono, Vento, Spice Market DINING HOT SPOTS Jerry’s, Balthazar

Jeffrey, Stella McCartney, Scoop SAMPLE STORES Apple, Burberry, Moss


Mardi Gras atmosphere on NIGHTLIFE Quiet streets

Gansevoort rooftop