The restoration scaffolding is starting to come off the south facade, and it looks great.
August 31, 2005
At Grand Central, Business Is Booming
Diners at Junior's enjoy lunch.
By CLAIRE WILSON
Having to close up shop for a couple of years while Grand Central Terminal was being renovated turned out to be a fortunate turn of events for Scott Stein, owner of Grand Central Optical, which had been doing business in a corridor just off Lexington Avenue since 1964. During the renovation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the station, moved the optical shop temporarily to a ground-floor shop in its nearby Madison Avenue headquarters.
When the work on the renovation of the terminal was completed, Mr. Stein decided to keep both stores open. Seven years after the terminal officially reopened in 1998, the 500-square-foot Grand Central store outpaces the 1,100-square-foot second shop, which has since moved to another nearby Madison Avenue address, by a wide margin.
"My return is 70 percent higher in Grand Central," said Mr. Stein, whose family also operated Grand Central Jewelers in the terminal between 1923 and the mid-1990's.
Average annual rents for 500 square feet, the most common size in the terminal, run about $250 a square foot, although Mr. Stein, as a longtime tenant, pays slightly less than that.
With the rents on the two shops comparable, he said, the success of the Grand Central location is attributable not only to higher traffic but also to a marked change in shopping habits of the 700,000 commuters who pass through daily, along with the tourists and enormous pool of office workers from surrounding blocks. Clearly, they find the atmosphere much more conducive to lingering and spending money.
Before the renovation it was dingy at best, defined by a Nedick's with the paint peeling from the ceiling, a 99-cent store and services for commuters like shoeshine stands. "Before, they were just going to the train, but now they are leaving extra time to buy things and seem happy to shop there," Mr. Stein said. "It's a whole different mind-set."
Mr. Stein is one of about 90 retailers, food merchants and restaurateurs doing brisk business in Grand Central Terminal since it reopened.
The space is 100 percent leased, and five kiosks were recently added to Graybar Passage, a hallway that links to Lexington Avenue, as an experiment in response to demand from small vendors, according to Paul Kastner, director of marketing for Grand Central's commercial space and vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle, which manages the nontransportation business in the terminal for the M.T.A.
Many small retailers like Grand Central Optical are concentrated in 500-square-foot spaces along the Lexington Passage, which is parallel to Graybar. The other tenants include 22 restaurants like Junior's, Dishes and the recently arrived Ciao Bella Gelateria in the lower-level dining concourse; most offer only take-out service. Thirteen high-end food specialty retailers like Murray's Cheese and the Pescatore Seafood Company operate within the area called the Grand Central Market, and there are also full-service restaurants like Cipriani Dolci and the Oyster Bar and Restaurant.
Chain retailers in larger interior spaces include Hudson News and a Rite Aid drugstore, and Kenneth Cole is one of a number of clothing stores outside along 42nd Street. There is also a seasonal sidewalk cafe set up in the former taxi bay on the Vanderbilt Avenue side of the terminal.
Vanderbilt Hall, a cavernous room on street level on the 42nd Street side, is rented out for special events like the annual Holiday Fair, with 72 merchants, or the recent introduction of supersize M&M's.
Annual revenue per square foot in Grand Central Market, where rents run about $200 a square foot, is about $2,000, according to Mr. Kastner. Return per square foot for small retailers like Aveda and Origins cosmetics or a lingerie shop called the Pink Slip is high for a mall, about $1,400 a square foot, he said. "To compare, sales in the best shopping centers will be $500 to $800 per square foot," he said.
Turnover among retailing tenants is low. A men's clothing store in a corner location closed recently. "The men's store wasn't the right fit," Mr. Kastner said. The space is now occupied by Swatch.
Most tenants were eager to renew when their five-year leases ran out. Armin Koglin, owner of Koglin German Royal Hams, who sold four stores in Lubeck, Germany, to open in Grand Central, recently signed a four-year lease and wants to extend that. "I've asked for the option to renew from 2009 to 2014," Mr. Koglin said. He is looking for a second site to open a larger version of his Grand Central venture.
Bobby Shapiro, owner of Zócalo, a 2,000-square-foot Grand Central outpost of his Zócalo Bar and Restaurant, on the Upper East Side, said his sales had climbed every year, including a 10 percent rise this year over last. Now he too wants to take his dining concourse formula to other transit hubs. "I want to go to Penn Station, and we are considering airports," Mr. Shapiro said.
Retailers at Grand Central are delighted at their captive audience of almost three-quarters of a million customers on weekdays. The trouble is, at Grand Central Terminal they all want to shop or eat at the same time, according to Glenn Licht, co-owner with Jerry Bocchino of the Pescatore Seafood Company, which sells fresh fish. "Eighty percent of our business is done with the evening commuters," he said, "generally between 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m."
Business tends to be almost exclusively tied to office hours and the schedules of suburban commuters from Connecticut and Westchester, according to Donald Myers, store manager of Ceriello Fine Foods in the Grand Central Market and the Paninoteca Italiana, a sandwich shop on the dining concourse.
Relatively few customers come from nearby densely populated residential areas east of Third Avenue, a block away, making weekends extremely slow, a number of merchants said.
Efforts to promote shopping in the terminal by local apartment dwellers have had disappointing results. A coupon mailing around the neighborhood about 18 months ago brought customers into Grand Central Market for their $5 savings, but yielded little repeat business, according to Mr. Myers.
"When work is on, so are we; when work is off, so are we," Mr. Myers said. "Weekends have grown, but they are still not where we want them to be."
The restoration scaffolding is starting to come off the south facade, and it looks great.
The protective netting used to cover scaffolding could use an improvement.
A few years ago I spent some time in Rome, where many buildings were undergoing renvoation. The practice there: scaffolding was wrapped with an image of the building being worked on (with a small acknowledgement for the corporate support).
Sure beats the 60 foot-long billboards on the all scaffolding / "sidewalk sheds" in my neighborhood.
Back in the late '90s, when the Washington Monument was being restored, the protective netting around it was painted as to evoke large bricks. It was well-liked and some admirers thought that the scaffolding should have remained even after the restoration work was finished.
The Netting and scaffolding erected for cleaning the western side of Grand Central Terminal has been removed as of at least today, Tusday Sept 13. It looks great.
nice shot - did you use the doors right behind where you were standing (when you took the photo?)
Yes. I used the doors on the west-side of the building.Originally Posted by ryan
Grand Central's Barriers To Be Given Face-Lift
By BRADLEY HOPE, Special to the Sun
The unsightly barricades outside Grand Central Terminal will be replaced with hundreds of bronze-finished bollards by this summer, Metro-North officials said yesterday.
The Jersey barriers and concrete cubes currently in place were added in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks to prevent terrorists from driving a car bomb into the station.
With a $10 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last spring awarded John Civetta and Sons a contract to install new, more attractive barricades. The 600 new bollards are designed to allow easier passage by pedestrians while maintaining solid protection from vehicles, a Metro-North spokesman, Dan Brucker, said.
The bollards, which contain large steel cylinders, will be cemented to the sidewalk.
The terminal has been operating in its current form since 1913.Since Metro-North took control of the station in 1994, it has undergone extensive renovations.
Truck and car bombs have been one of the favored terrorism methods by insurgents in Iraq. A truck bomb that slammed into the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in 2003 killed 17 people and injured more than 100 others. According to a briefing diagram from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a small box van can carry up to 10,000 pounds of explosives with a lethal blast range of 300 feet.
The updating of perimeter security is the latest of several security moves at Grand Central. Last summer, the MTA announced it had installed real-time technology that can detect chemical and biological agents in the air. Several New York Police Department K-9 units are deployed in the subways. The MTA also awarded a $212 million contract to Lockheed Martin in August to install smart cameras in subway stations. The cameras are designed to detect people loitering or entering restricted zones, as well as unattended packages and other patterns. The MTA also is spending millions of dollars in federal grants on strengthening bridges and tunnels and on training MTA police to be able to spot suspicious activity quickly.
Those don't look like they would stop a truck bomb.Originally Posted by ryan
Well, like everything French (especially their cars) these are much slimmer than in the U.S. They would stop a lot of trucks from entering the building, but I would guess we'll see the less elegant 10" stanchions.
Thank God GCT is getting these. I walk through almost every day, and there is always a bottleneck of pedestrians at those few points where a space is left between the cement barriers. You can't get through. Then of course, there is often a giant puddle of greasy water at the exact spot where they left the opening.
Agreed. They could also keep those guys from selling stolen goods (or stuff fished out of garbage cans) on the sidewalk right by the Lexington Avenue entrance. The sidewalks there are crowded enough.