Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — Herald Square and 34th Street are percolating. With a vacancy rate of less than 2 percent, according to the 34th Street Partnership, there are more interested retailers than available space, making any location that opens up a hot property.
Following are some of the latest developments in the area.
Sears is reportedly negotiating once again — this time aggressively — with Federated Department Stores for the A&S site. Sears had expressed interest in the building last fall, then apparently backed off.
A&S Plaza is getting a new name. The mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, hired Marketing Development Inc., Cincinnati, to work on several issues, including finding a name for the complex. Among the possibilities are Broadway Plaza or Greeley Plaza (the property faces Greeley Square).
The Disney Store Inc. is looking for a location on 34th Street. The company was reportedly interested in The Italy Department Store site, a two-level, 25,000-square-foot space at 39 West 34th St., but the deal hit a snag. Last week, the Italy store put up “going out of business” signs and announced it would open a flea market in the location.
Warner Bros. has also been looking for a site along 34th Street.
“We have looked at the street, but there’ve been no commitments,” said Raymond Carew, a partner in Gervais, Carew & Dick, a real estate consultant to Warner Bros. “We do have interest in another store. Whether it’s 34th Street or Times Square, I can’t say. We’re kind of seeing what’s there.”
Nine West confirmed it is opening a store on 34th Street.
“We would love to find a location in Manhattan where we can do big-volume business and also do so profitably,” said Arthur Martinez, chairman and chief executive officer of the Sears Merchandising Group. “We’ve explored a number of sites in Manhattan. The two you mentioned [the A&S site and 14th and (Broadway at Union Square] are among them. None of them have yet come to any fruition. We are still actively interested in Manhattan.”
Asked whether Federated’s announcement that it will open a Stern’s in the A&S location would preclude Sears from opening there, Martinez said, “I wouldn’t necessarily say so. This is a work in progress.”
Federated has said it will open a Stern’s in the A&S space on May 1. Under an agreement with Oliver Koppell, the former New York State attorney general, Federated agreed to sell six New York City area stores, including the A&S at 33rd Street. However, the retailer has at least two years to sell the lease.
According to Alan R. Grossman, a partner in The Georgetown Company, a real estate adviser to The Disney Store Inc., “We have explored opportunities on 34th Street for the Disney Store company. We continue to search. If the right piece of real estate were to open up, it’s fair to say Disney would open a store on 34th Street.”
For a year, Herald Square has been undergoing a transformation. Kmart said it would open a store at One Penn Plaza, between 7th and 8th Avenues on 34th Street in November. An HMV superstore is currently under construction on the northeast corner of 34th Street and Sixth Avenue. Daffy’s opened a unit on the southwest corner of 34th Street and Broadway, in October. Parade of Shoes and Claire’s, an accessories chain, have also opened on 34th Street.
There is also talk that Woolworth Corp. will replace its unit at 120 West 34th Street with one of its specialty store concepts.
“We have no plans at this time to put a new concept in the 34th Street store,” said a spokeswoman for Woolworth.
In anticipation of Kmart’s arrival, Conway is expanding its store at 1333 Broadway between 35th and 36th Streets by about 25,000 square feet and changing the name to Conway’s World Premiere Stores. Jeff Cohen, vice president of Conway, said the company is also planning to expand one of its 34th Street stores, but declined to be more specific, because the lease has not yet been signed.
“Thirty-fourth Street is getting significantly better,” said Grossman. “You can feel the new rhythm of the street.”