Roosevelt Island's Main Street Is NYC Version Of Prisoner's Village - Will New Study Bring Master Leaseholder And Change Depressing Drab?
This morning I got up early and explored the half of Roosevelt Island I missed on my first trip to this weirdo bit on earth in the East River. Main Street in so late 60s and early 70s it made my teeth ache. It’s all concrete and metal siding, rundown and aesthetically homogeneous. It’s like a English village via Soviet Russia. It’s the New York version of The Village from the cult TV series The Prisoner. It’s fascinating that it is so close to Manhattan and yet worlds apart.Well, maybe things are about to change for Roosevelt Island's Main Street. The long sought after Roosevelt Island Main Street Retail Study ("The Study") prepared by Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates has been completed and made public.
Roosevelt Island Main Street Retail Study
It is quite detailed and 54 pages long. Issues of Roosevelt Island demographics, appropriate retail store and square footage mix, what type of retail services do the residents of Roosevelt Island want and not want, competitive analysis of existing retail choices, problems caused by the restrictive covenant in Gristedes Supermarket lease that inhibits retail competition, how can visitors be attracted to Roosevelt Island to spend retail dollars, future options for Main Street retail, among many others are addressed. It is a comprehensive document.
The Study's findings are (Page 2):
- Roosevelt Island residents do just 12% of their shopping on the island.
- The existing retail mix on Main Street is failing to capture the new market opportunities afforded by the island’s growing affluent market.
- Main Street suffers from several design flaws.
- Residents have a very negative attitude towards Main Street.
- Roosevelt Island is gaining affluent residents while maintaining its economic and ethnic diversity.
- Cultural and athletic activities bring thousands of visitors to Roosevelt Island each year, but this translates to very little spending on Main Street.
- The most desired new retail uses from residents on Roosevelt Island are a bakery, a restaurant, a green grocer, an ice cream shop, a pizzeria and fish store.
- There is sufficient demand to support at least a small-format green grocer, a bakery, another sit-down restaurant and a quick-service food and beverage establishment.
The Study recommends (Page 3):
... six major interrelated intervention strategies to set a new life for Main Street in motion:
- Create a public/private partnership to lease and/or help manage Main Street.
- Pursue specific streetscape interventions and create appearance standards and design guidelines for Main Street retailers.
- Revive the Roosevelt Island Chamber of Commerce to be the steward of Main Street success.
- Re-organize existing non-profit uses to maximize available marketable space, and cluster
- appropriate non-profits into space more suitable to function.
- Make Good Shepherd Plaza the “town square” of Roosevelt Island.
- Create a “Gateway to Main Street” at the southern entrance point to Main Street.
1. Green GrocerAs to the future, the Study found, as we all know from historical practice, that RIOC is not qualified to manage a successful Main Street Retail environment (Page 39-40):
2. Ice Cream Shop
3. Specialty Cheese Shop
4. Seafood Store
10. Home furnishings store.
... The RIOC does not have the administrative or professional capacity to create a successful retail environment on Main Street.
This is due in large part to the extensive RFP process which is required pursuant to the RIOC’s status as a public authority. The RIOC should follow the example provided by other public authorities in New York which have dealt with this same issue by engaging retail professionals in the private sector. Private involvement in Main Street could utilize one of the three following basic approaches:
1. The Master Leaseholder (the JFK Model): Under this arrangement, the RIOC would solicit proposals, as it did in 2005, for a private takeover of all or some Main Street retail storefronts. Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy airport is an example of such an approach. In 1997, the Port Authority of New York executed a 25 year lease with Schipol USA and LCOR Incorporated for all retail spaces in the terminal. Schipol/LCOR sub-leases each space and manages the overall retail environment.Maybe, perhaps, if we are extremely lucky, RIOC will follow through on the Study's recommendations, get out of the business of managing retail on Main Street and find a private sector Master Retail Leaseholder to take over Main Street.
2. The Retail Manager/Consultant (the Grand Central Model): This model would allow the RIOC to maintain control over Main Street, but the leasing process and management of the tenants would be handled by a private consultant(s). The tenanting of individual spaces, storefront design guidelines and maintenance standards would be based on an overall retail master plan developed by the RIOC. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s partnership with Jones Lang LaSalle and William Jackson Ewing is a good example of this arrangement. This example is highlighted on the following page.
3. The Hybrid Model: This model, which represents a combination of the first two approaches, would be based on a Retail Master Plan created by the RIOC. The Retail Master Plan would identify specific categories of retail that make sense from both a market and community viewpoint and, where possible, identify the potential locations of each. RIOC would then solicit proposals for a master leaseholder. The master lease agreement would contain stipulations about specific types of tenants and locations are available based on the RIOC Retail Master Plan.
The RIOC has articulated a desire to continue to maintain some control over the tenanting and management of Main Street. As such, the Grand Central model really makes the most sense. The problem, however, would be the costs associated with retaining qualified private consultants. If retaining a consultant is not economically feasible, the RIOC should consider the feasibility of pursuing the Hybrid Model. This would allow the RIOC to identify several specific uses that are: (1) desired by residents; and (2) viable based on the market analysis in this report, and negotiate a master lease agreement with stipulations that the master leaseholder must pursue tenants in those categories. Conducting a transparent RFP process, including an independent appraisal of each space, for the overall management of Main Street would fulfill the requirements of the Public Authorities Act by securing a fair market value for the master lease. The private firm would then be allowed to sub-lease the spaces, as long as the tenants met the stipulations of the RIOC Retail Master Plan. ...
Read the whole 54 page Roosevelt Island Retail Study yourself which RIOC has posted on their web site as well. Lots of interesting stuff.
Otherwise, Roosevelt Island's Main Street is doomed to continue to look like a drab relic of East Berlin before the Wall fell or the Village from The Prisoner!.
Be Seeing You.