MIDTOWN — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has given two of the city’s most popular retailers, the Apple Store and Shake Shack, preliminary approval to open their newest locations in Grand Central Terminal.
The MTA's Metro-North and Finance committees voted Monday to approve the two leases, which MTA Director of Real Estate Jeffrey Rosen described as "game-changers" for the station. The plans are set to go before the full board Wednesday.
Under plans revealed Monday, Apple would take over the space now occupied by long-time tenant Metrazur on the east balcony, as well as the northeast balcony, to create a 23,000-square-foot store, reportedly its largest.
"We have submitted plans for the store we intend to create in world-renowned Grand Central Terminal and we look forward to working with the MTA. Our four stores in Manhattan are incredibly popular with customers and we're excited to bring the Apple retail experience to this incredible location," an Apple spokesman said.
The MTA has long been trying to find a replacement for Metrazur restaurant which leases its space for just $263,000 a year, Rosen said.
Apple would pay Metrazur $5 million to terminate its lease early, and would then pay the MTA $800,000 in rent in the first year, increasing to $1.043 million on the last year of their 10-year deal. The company would also make substantial investments to retrofit the space, Rosen said.
Unlike many of its other locations, Apple would not construct any type of glass structure around the showroom, according to preliminary plans, which reveal an open concept with merchandise displayed along large wood or stone tables and a single glowing "Apple" logo beckoning commuters to the store.
The company would not be permitted to set up merchandise or cashiers adjacent to the balconies' balustrades, so that visitors can still look out across the station, said MTA spokeswoman Margie Anders, who described the design as "tasteful" with subdued lighting that will have a minimal impact on the iconic space.
Meanwhile, Midtown Shake Shack-lovers may no longer have to travel to near the Port Authority Bus Terminal to get their burger, fry and frozen custard fix. The chain is poised to replace the Mexican eatery Zocalo on the lower-level Dining Concourse, where it would occupy a 2,270-square-foot space.
Under a 10-year lease, the Danny Meyer-helmed burger joint would pay $435,000 for their first year, with the total gradually increasing to $567,000 in its last.
While the chain's proposal was not the MTA's highest offer for the space, Rosen said members felt the chain's drawing power would help to boost business throughout the terminal.
"The opportunity to introduce a Shake Shack at this location is, I think, an exceptionally exciting one," he said.
While committee members did not raise concerns about the potential impact of the chain's famously pungent smells, there were questions about the lines of customers expected to form outside the store.
Rosen said the chain has agreed to begin the lines inside of its space and then to have them snake up the ramp toward the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
Despite the votes in support, concerns were also raised about the introduction of two new national chains.
MTA Board Member Michael Pally also said that staffers would be working on ways to improve the offerings over at Penn Station, whose selection of retail and restaurant tenants has long-lagged far behind.