COLUMBUS CIRCLE — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on Wednesday that it plans to develop a major retail concourse at the renovated 59 Street-Columbus Circle subway station and is seeking bids from real estate firms to manage the project.
The MTA is proposing an 11,500-square-foot, 13-store retail zone on the mezzanine level of the busy station — the seventh most-trafficked in the city with 21.3 million customers entering in 2011.
The shops would span the length of Eighth Avenue between West 57th and 58th streets. The MTA hopes the proximity of the Time Warner Center shops at Columbus Circle, which are set to include an H&M this fall, as well as Central Park will continue to lure tourists and shoppers.
The proposed deal would be the first time the MTA has leased all responsibility for managing and maintaining a retail zone and its public areas to an outside firm. At Grand Central, Penn Station and Rockefeller Center, the MTA manages individual tenants directly.
“It is imperative that the MTA find new ways to reduce expenses and make the most out of its real estate portfolio,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota in a statement issued Wednesday.
“Thinking creatively about our real estate holdings and the way we engage with the private sector has led us to pursue a partnership that we expect will increase MTA revenue and allow us to focus our resources on those parts of the station where they are most needed.”
The MTA has been cash-strapped for years, resulting in fare increases in the fall of 2010. It entered into 2012 with a $68 million deficit but promised no fare hikes or service cuts this year.
At this early stage in the process, the MTA said it does not have an estimate for the project’s timeline nor the amounts potential bidders might offer. Bids to manage the master lease are due Sept. 14.