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NEW YORK — Grand Central Terminal was revitalized more than a decade ago, but the retail lineup is still a work in progress.
This story first appeared in the February 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
About 43 percent of the station’s retail leases are due to expire in the next two years, offering the Metropolitan Transit Authority an opportunity to reshape the shopping mix.
Tia’s Place, a boutique specializing in young designers, niche brands and distinctive furniture and antiques, is said to be close to signing a lease at Grand Central. The business was founded by Megan O’Sullivan a former Wall Street trader and Battery Park City resident who left her job and Manhattan after 9/11 to launch Tia’s in Jersey City.
MAC will be another addition to the terminal. John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. in charge of MAC, said, “It happens to be true” that the company would like to open a unit at Grand Central. Sources said MAC would move into the space in the Lexington Passage now occupied by L’Occitane, pending final lease negotiations. Demsey declined to comment on the lease.
Like a doting parent, the MTA has a history of carefully curating the retail properties at the terminal. “We’re doing a lot of tweaking,” said Nancy Marshall, director of development for Grand Central. “Some uses are no longer relevant. We’re trying not to forget about the mom and pops. Where possible, we’re trying to achieve a balance and not bring in too many chains. Mom-and-pop stores keep us fresh.”
The MTA works with leasing company Williams Jackson Ewing and Jones Lang LaSalle, a property management firm.
Several existing tenants will nearly double their space at the terminal, including Pink Slip, which will move into the Godiva space, and Grand Central Optical, which is taking over the Children’s General Store. Tumi also is adding space.
Innasense Designs, a jewelry store in the West Village, will replace Our Name Is Mud, which is leaving the terminal. Flowers on Lexington will become Cursive, a boutique selling stationery, jewelry and decorative objects, with an outpost at ABC Carpet & Home.
Marshall said the changes will take place between April and next fall.
If the terminal were a mall, it would be one of the most successful in the country. Retail sales average about $2,200 a square foot, according to Marshall. That’s higher than the Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and the Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, Fla.
Rents range from $200 to $225 a square foot, Marshall said.
“Our anchor is the transportation, and it’s a great anchor,” she added. “It beats Neiman Marcus.”
About half a million people pass through the terminal each day. Stores such as GNC and Rite Aide offer convenience; Pylones and the Art of Shaving, a sense of discovery, and tucked away in corners near the railroad, special services. At Central Watch Band Stand you can buy a new timepiece or have your watch battery repaired, while Grand Central Racket offers same-day racket restringing.