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Like waterfront property or skyline views, prime retail real estate is always in high demand and short supply. The same applies to the most expensive retail street in each of 15 U.S. and Canadian cities. New York’s East 57th Street for the second year captured the top spot on the list with rent almost three times that of second-ranked Post Street in San Francisco. Post Street rents actually declined 17 percent from $300 per square foot in 2003. Real estate brokers are optimistic about the stability of real estate values. But consumers’ lust for luxury may be dampened if interest rates and gas prices continue to climb.

This story first appeared in the July 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

  1. 57TH STREET, NEW YORK
    Rent per square foot: $850

    Since March 2003 rents appreciated by more than 50 percent, according to the Real Estate Board of New York. Chanel, Burberry, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Montblanc are fixtures on the street. Louis Vuitton in February opened its largest unit in Manhattan at 1 East 57th Street. Vuitton’s parent, LVMH, bought the entire building to avoid paying too much rent.
  2. POST STREET, SAN FRANCISCO
    Rent per square foot: $250

    Vacancies on and around Union Square have been rising since 2001. Holiday sales last Christmas were the lowest in recent memory. Still, Prada and Hermès have made a commitment to Post Street. Other luxe retailers in the area are Neiman Marcus, Bulgari, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Virgin Megastore; DFS, a discount shoe warehouse, and Impostors, a jewelry boutique for knockoffs, have taken some of the luster off the Square.
  3. MICHIGAN AVENUE, CHICAGO
    Rent per square foot: $203

    Denizens of Lake Shore Drive and downtown luxury condos — and there are plenty — keep the cash registers ringing on Michigan Avenue. Few high-end stores are missing from the lineup, which includes Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel, Max Mara and Ralph Lauren. Edgier stores such as Ikram and boutiques like Stella McCartney are located off Michigan Avenue on Rush and Oak Streets.
  4. RODEO DRIVE/WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, LOS ANGELES
    Rent per square foot: $180

    There was a time when Fred Hayman, Rodeo Drive’s king of glamor and glitz, was the go-to guy for the red carpet crowd. That was before stars hired personal stylists, and designers emissaries circled Hollywood like buzzards. When Hayman in 1998 closed his store, Louis Vuitton moved into the space. Since then, almost every notable designer has captured a spot on Rodeo Drive. Prada this month opened an enormous Epicenter.

  5. KALAKAUA AVENUE, HONOLULU
    Rent per square foot: $180

    The $140 million retail project known as 2100 Kalakaua Avenue opened in 2002, when SARS and the war in Iraq were putting a serious dent in the Hawaiian economy. The firms that committed to the venture were so bullish on the market that they stayed the course. Chanel, Gucci and Tiffany & Co., which also operate units a mile away at the older Ala Moana Shopping Center, are finding that the island can support two stores in close proximity.
  6. LAS VEGAS BOULEVARD, LAS VEGAS
    Rent per square foot: $175

    Sales at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace exceed $1,300 per square foot and an expansion is under way. Bellagio’s boutiques include Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Prada. Wynn Las Vegas will offer Chanel, Dior, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Graff. Aladdin’s retail theme park Desert Passage has pedicab tours of the Arabian “desert” and rainstorms while the Venetian has gondola rides and street performers.
  7. BLOOR STREET, TORONTO
    Rent per square foot: $175

    Among Canadian luxury retailers Holt Renfrew’s designer offerings are unparalleled with Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Tod’s, Akris. The Bloor Street flagship in 2002 completed a $33 million renovation. Andrew Jennings, president and managing director of the Holt Renfrew Specialty Group, left in February to become Saks Fifth Avenue’s president and chief merchandising officer.
  8. ROBSON STREET, VANCOUVER
    Rent per square foot: $170

    Robson Street caters to young sensibilities, as its roster of stores attests. Guess, Bebe, BCBG Max Azria, Tommy Hilfiger, Benetton, French Connection, Zara, A|X Armani Exchange and Mexx are on the boulevard. The city’s multiethnic population is evident in the Japanese, French, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Korean and fusion restaurants along Robson Street.
  9. ST. CATHERINE STREET, MONTREAL
    Rent per square foot: $135

    Montreal’s St. Catherine Street is fairly bursting with pedestrians, mall staples and local homegrown chains such as Tristan & America, Aldo, Boutique F1 Montreal, Chateau Works and Le Chateau. Patrick Mendes hails from France. Mexx comes from The Netherlands by way of Liz Claiborne, which bought the company. American mainstays Urban Outfitters, Gap and Guess also have a presence.

  10. NEWBURY STREET, BOSTON
    Rent per square foot: $120

    Akris, Armani, Burberry, Chanel, Max Mara and Ralph Lauren are reminders of Newbury Street’s glory days. As with prime retail real estate everywhere, moderately priced brands such as Urban Outfitters, Gap, Express, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic have muscled their way onto the charming, tree-lined street. Starbucks is strategically positioned at both ends of the thoroughfare.
  11. PROSPECT/GIRARD STREETS, LA JOLLA, CALIF.
    Rent per square foot: $90

    Ocean views and temperate weather make La Jolla one of the country’s most sought-after and affluent communities. Prospect Street is called La Jolla’s “Rodeo Drive” — what upscale shopping street isn’t? Both Prospect and Girard Streets have less flash than the real Rodeo Drive. Phillipe Charriol and Cartier sparkle, but Chico’s and Talbots may be more representative of residents’ expanding waistlines and conservative tastes.
  12. WALNUT STREET, PHILADELPHIA
    Rent per square foot: $75

    Cookie-cutter brands such as Gap, Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma and Urban Outfitters have moved to Walnut Street on Rittenhouse Row, which is considered Philadelphia’s toniest retail district. Manayunk, which harbors ambitions to be Philadelphia’s answer to SoHo, is where art galleries and independent boutiques such as Ma Jolie, Public Image and Leeha Fay congregate.
  13. WESTHEIMER ROAD, HOUSTON
    Rent per square foot: $66

    Independent stores on Westheimer Road include Tootsies, a longtime favorite with the fashion elite, which features Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci and Roberto Cavalli that scream “notice me!” Westheimer stretches toward the Galleria – hallowed shopping ground – with the luxury lineup of Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Christian Dior, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo and Luca Luca.
  14. GOVERNMENT STREET, VICTORIA, B.C.
    Rent per square foot: $65

    Government Street has a strong British and Irish influence. W. & J. Wilson features traditional styles by Geiger and Johnston of Elgin Scotland. A store called British Importers sells tweedy men’s wear. Cashmere and natural fibers can be found at Avoca Handweavers and Irish Linen Stores. The tourist-friendly street has limited traffic and wide sidewalks.

  15. SIXTH AVENUE, SEATTLE
    Rent per square foot: $60

    With Frederick & Nelson and I. Magnin standing empty like elegant white elephants, the prognosis for retail in downtown Seattle in the Nineties was grim. Then Nordstrom decided to renovate and occupy the Frederick & Nelson property. In 1998, Pacific Place, a $170 million urban mall, rose from a city-owned parking lot across the street sparking a retail revival with stores such as Tiffany & Co., Coach, Max Mara, Helly Hanson and L’Occitane.

SOURCE: COLLIERS INTERNATIONAL, NORTH AMERICA RETAIL HIGHLIGHTS 2004, ROSS MOORE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH; * Signifies a tie