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No Shake Shack, But Restaurants Looking to 135th Street, Experts Say

By Jeff Mays | June 19, 2013 7:07am
 Shake Shack is a destination for many visitors to the city — who may be looking for a local to guide them around.
Shake Shack is a destination for many visitors to the city — who may be looking for a local to guide them around.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HARLEM — When it comes to restaurants, West 135th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard is pretty much a desert.

"They don't have much in that area, not even any fashionable fast food, a Panera Bread," said Faith Hope Consolo, who runs the retail leasing and sales division for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

But word that Shake Shack owner Danny Meyer may have looked at a space in the area to open a new bistro could get the ball rolling.

Consolo and her team, who just acquired a nine-building portfolio with 25,000 square feet of space in the neighborhood, said Meyer's company had shown some interest in the area.

The news was first reported in the Commercial Observer.

But Jee Won Park, a spokeswoman for Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, said the rumors aren't true.

"We have nothing in the works," she said of the location in question. "That doesn't mean we would never come to Harlem because we are always looking for great locations, but in terms of that particular location for that particular concept, no."

Consolo said Meyer's company, which also operates The Modern, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, was just one of the many that she's gotten inquiries from.

"I have a whole host of restaurants looking to go up there for different concepts," Consolo said.

Five of the buildings are located at West 135th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Three of the buildings are located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between West 134th and West 136th streets.

Another building is located on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. The stores range in size from 500 to 5,000 square feet.

Even if Meyer isn't opening a bistro, new establishments in the area would be welcome.

There has been development in the area with new co-ops and condos, but retail has been slow to follow. Consolo said that's beginning to change and restaurants and retailers are no longer just looking at 125th Street and the surrounding areas south of the famed stretch.

"All over Harlem there is growth. It's spreading to almost every street," Consolo said.

Sakita Holley, a small business owner who is a publicist and editorial director of the Eat in Harlem blog, said while new restaurants opening in Harlem is good for the neighborhood, other types of businesses need to come, too.

"We have big chains like Joe's Crab Shack and Red Lobster coming but we are getting so many food places that we need to branch out," Holley said.

Higher quality retail and places for children all need to be beefed up.

"We are more than just food," Holley added. "We need other businesses in order to be more diverse."

Consolo said she is also speaking to a wine shop that is interested in the area and retail stores, such as one of the major cell phone carriers, is also a possibility.

"It will be better than anything we've had here," she said.