By  on April 15, 2005

NEW YORK — Marcia Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Daffy’s, began looking to open a store in lower Manhattan more than four years ago and was scheduled to see a retail space in the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11.

Now, as lower Manhattan rebuilds following the devastation, the discounter is set to open today at 50 Broadway. At 18,500 square feet, the store is smaller than a typical Daffy’s unit. “Our women’s wear selection here will be a little bit edgier,” Wilson said.

Daffy’s will be open seven days a week. The company kept some of the 1929 building’s original features, including the wooden stair rail, marble floor and decorative ceiling, while adding new signage, open racks and shelves for displaying accessories. Sales are projected at $500 to $600 a square foot.

A few years ago Daffy’s would have been a fashion island in a sea of banks and other financial service retailers on Broadway. But that’s changing. Nine West and Ann Taylor opened on Broadway, as did Men’s Wearhouse and Borders Books Music & Cafe. Hickey Freeman is opening a shop at 111 Broadway in June focusing on its custom-made suits.

“Lower Manhattan is underserved by 1 million to 2 million square feet,” said Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. “There is very high purchasing power here. The private sector wage is over $100,000.”

Real estate brokers said rents along Broadway range from $55 a square foot to $75 a square foot.

Neil A. Lipinski, senior managing director at Colliers ABR, represented Daffy’s and the United Federation of Teachers, which owns the building.

Daffy’s is planning to open another store in August in White Plains, N.Y. Gary Beitbart, the company’s chief operating officer, said the goal is to build 25 stores in the New York region within the next two years.

“We’re in an expansion mode,” Wilson said. “We’re looking to expand in Manhattan, the boroughs and New Jersey.”

Weisbrod said 330,000 people work in lower Manhattan, and there is a resident population of 33,000.“What  you’re seeing is significant change on Broadway,” he said. “It’s a street in transition. It will become a major retail thoroughfare.”

Weisbrod anticipates that the World Trade Center site will be a major retail destination when reconstruction is completed.

“The Port Authority is now working on an rfp [request for proposal] for a master retail lease,’’ he said. “The stores at the Trade Center will be very high-end and I’m confident a department store will be part of that.”

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