New York’s MTA Plans Retail Revamp of Highly Trafficked Subway Stations

Andrea Image
ByAndrea
June 17,2019

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that it would request proposals for master leases at three transit hubs in Manhattan covering dozens of food, drink, and retail units spanning over 16,000 square feet.

The first hub, 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station, will enjoy a proliferation of local and national brands in the tunnel that connects it to Times Square Station. Over the coming nine months, the MTA plans to revitalize the subway stations with a mix of local and national brands, offering retail, food, and drink in 47th-50th Street Rockefeller Center and Times Square-42nd Street stations.

The primary role model the MTA is trying to emulate in its efforts is Grand Central Terminal, with its wide variety of bars, restaurants, and retail stores. Another example is Turnstyle Underground Market, a retail-and-food space established in an unused corridor, leading to the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway station. Still, one must bear in mind that the three master leases are more of a challenge than Turnstyle, located on the periphery of Columbus Circle.

About 100,000 riders crowd the station below Port Authority Bus Terminal during peak hours, an opportunity for small and local businesses to sell third-wave coffee, some craft beer, or a quick snack.  Another 100,000 commuters come through the Times Square-42nd Street station every day, with the two stations streaming toward each other in a hive-like complex of staircases and passageways.

Commuters walking past a newsstand in the tunnel connecting Times Square Station to the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus terminal subway station will soon enjoy the many beverages and quality local foodstuffs as part of a plan to revamp dozens of subterranean retail stores.

In a recent interview, Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief development officer, mentioned that he would like to see more local, independent shops and upmarket options, as opposed to the sort of businesses we see in a “run-of-the-mill, midrange, suburban shopping center.“

“Not just Starbucks,” said Lieber, “maybe a more New York coffee place.”

The preparations for the small business blossoming in the busy stations below the Port Authority Bus Terminal started two years ago, with the MTA  shifting leaseholders to month-to-month contracts. The station contains 18 retail units across 8,800 square feet.

Over the past couple of years, a barber shop, florist and a clothing store have moved out. A few stores, including a newsstand, are holding on.

The MTA’s director of real-estate transactions and operations, David Florio, said riders should expect new stores to open by the spring of 2021 at the latest.

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