It's 2008 all over again on Greenwich Avenue. After a 4-year period of retailers holding back on opening new locations, seven new tenants recently signed leases on Greenwich Avenue properties.
Ron Brien, principal of Greenwich-based Alliance Commercial Property LLC and a practicing real estate attorney who specializes in commercial leasing for landlords and tenants, says leases are once again being signed at near peak per-square-foot levels of more than $100.
"Greenwich Avenue is a regional destination for very discriminating shoppers," Brien says.
Greenwich resident Jill Granoff, chief executive officer of Vince and Kellwood agrees. Her company has just leased 2,463 square feet at 161 Greenwich Ave. for Vince, an upscale men's and women's apparel store. "For our next Vince store, we selected Greenwich because it has truly become a destination for luxury retail shopping. We have a dedicated and discerning customer, both male and female, who resides in the community and will enjoy frequenting Vince for our latest collections . . ."
While Westport has a collection of shops that rivals Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich has the international cache, says Brien. "Greenwich is world-famous for its shopping, art, yachts and extraordinary residential areas. The sizes of the residential lots in Beverly Hills and Palm Beach do not compare to those in Greenwich."
New tenants also include apparel stores Joie, Marmot and Eres, along with Verizon Wireless, Endeavour Capital and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
Michael Mongiello, of Garden City, N. Y.-based Frankel Loughran Starr & Vallone LLP, the area developers for Tropical Smoothie Cafe, says his firm was looking for a base store to branch out from.
"We intend on opening 10 to 15 stores in Connecticut over the next five years," he says, and adds, "I have worked in Greenwich for many years, and it feels like home to me. What better place to launch our territory." He says the cafe's menu features food and smoothies with a healthy appeal, using fresh simple ingredients.
To learn more about local commercial real estate activity, Greenwich Citizen spoke with Brien.
You recently signed seven tenants to lease properties on Greenwich Ave. Is this perhaps a sign of commercial real estate gaining momentum in town?
Six of the seven were retail tenants, and one lease was for office space. Yes, interest in leasing retail space on Greenwich Avenue is at a level not seen since 2008. Other high-end national brands that have opened or are in the midst of opening on the Avenue are Sandro, Maje, Rag & Bone, Hermes, Alexis Bittar and Brandy Melville.
(Editor's note: The Vince, Joie and Marmot spaces for rent were co-listed by Alliance Commercial Property LLC and Allied Property Group, also based in Greenwich.)
How long were the properties vacant, and how did you fill them?
All but one of the spaces were pre-leased before the exiting tenant left. One retail space did take more than a year to lease.
Can you tell us the price per square foot for the properties?
Most of the retail leases were more than $100 per square foot per year, plus real estate taxes.
How does this stack up historically? (Higher than in recent past, lower, etc.)
Current rents are approaching the levels obtained back in 2007 to 2008, which was the peak rental rate on a per-sqaure-foot basis for retail space along Greenwich Avenue.
Is Greenwich Ave. again considered a prime location for retailers?
Greenwich was always considered a prime location for retailers, but between 2009 to 2012, not many national retailers were expanding. Most were on hold with their expansion plans. The economy is better now and consumers are again spending, so retailers are expanding again. Greenwich Avenue is often compared to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; but there is another street in Beverly Hills named Canon Drive, and I feel Greenwich Avenue is more like Canon than Rodeo, because of a similar mix of shopping -- from high-end boutiques to cafes to mom and pop shops.
Rodeo is strictly high-end boutiques, while Canon has a mix similar to Greenwich Avenue. Beverly Hills also has side streets, similar to our Lewis and Elm Streets, that are named Brighton and Dayton. The `side streets' allow retailers to enter the downtown Greenwich market at half the rent. Also, while rents on Greenwich Avenue average more than $100 per sqaure foot, rents on Rodeo Drive average $250 per sqaure foot.
What type of retailers are generally attracted to locations on the Avenue?
Apparel is first, and there are dozens of restaurants that would like to open.
Do you see an uptick in commercial real estate in town?
Is your specialty Greenwich Ave. or do you lease properties in other locations, too?
Greenwich is primarily my specialty, as well as towns such as New Canaan, Westport, Rye, etc., along with New York City. I have one client that I brought to Greenwich, Benefit Cosmetics, an LVMH-owned brand, (Louis Vuitton, Moët Hennessy) that I also opened on West Broadway in SOHO and at Third Avenue at 75th Street. We are looking for a third location in the City as we speak. I am also bringing Benefit to New Haven and/or the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.