MANHATTAN — A new map is highlighting the problem of rising commercial vacancies in the borough.
Developer Justin Levinson created the Vacant New York map by marking all of the empty shops he could find in Manhattan — through broker's listings and his own footwork — in red. He found that as commercial rents soar, more shops are seemingly being pushed out.
"It's a shame to see a place you love, that gives character to a neighborhood pushed out only to be replaced by nothing — or by a bank or drugstore," said Levinson, a longtime East Village resident.
The problem seems to be on the rise in particularly pricey neighborhoods in Manhattan, like TriBeCa, SoHo and the Financial District, where you can see distinct clusters of red on the map.
For example, asking rents for ground floor retail space in the Financial District jumped 39 percent in the last year, from $234 per square foot in spring 2015 to $326 per square foot this spring, according to data from the Real Estate Board of New York.
The trend of rising retail rental rates can be seen across the borough as well. The average retail asking rates in Manhattan spiked 17 percent, from $130 in fall 2013 to $156 dollars per square foot in fall 2015, according to REBNY.
Real estate can turn over quickly, and Levinson knows he probably didn't catch every storefront, but the idea, he said, was to offer a snapshot of the situation and perhaps attempt to spur some kind of change.
Levinson has some potential ideas for solutions to empty storefronts, like taxes on vacant spaces or subsidies for certain tenants to open, but he acknowledges the issue is complex, and each neighborhood may be different when it comes to dealing with vacant space.
But, he said, the hope is that "we try something, experiment with solutions, because we have to acknowledge this is a problem."
"There are only so many types of stores that can afford such high rents, and those aren't usually the ones that give a neighborhood character," he said.
Levinson welcomes corrections or additions to the map. Check out Vacant New York for more information.
He also hopes to continue the project throughout the rest of the city.