Volume 78 - Number 41 / March 18 -24, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Signs of life at Chumley’s
Nearly two years since the historic West Village

speakeasy Chumley’s closed following a partial building

collapse, the property’s managing agent announced that the famed tavern could reopen by the fall.

The old-time pub’s planned resurrection was expected as early as October 2007. But that never materialized as necessary deconstruction work proceeded at 86 Bedford St. to stabilize the 1831 structure, Margaret Streicker Porres explained last June. She confirmed this week, through spokesperson George Arzt, that renovation work performed on two buildings sandwiching the Chumley’s building — 84 and 82 Bedford Sts. — will be completed by the fall of 2009.

The work on the bar will include “a fully remodeled interior” of the space, which has yet to be completed, Arzt said, although the ultimate decision to reopen lies with Chumley’s owner Steve Schlopak.

A peek inside the pub — the reputed former haunt of literary lions like Hemingway and Fitzgerald — last spring showed most of the bar’s original tchotchkes and framed paraphernalia still in place.

Recently, the skeleton of a new roof rose at the address, indicating that work has continued despite a “glacial” pace, said Tom Hoover, who lives across the street from Chumley’s.

“My sense is that big, expensive and important work is being done but that it is being done at a very measured pace,” he observed.

Construction has indeed moved in fits and starts, with large cranes working at the site as recently as Mon., March 16. However, long gaps in between work have led some to speculate on the final outcome.

Because the property sits in the Greenwich Village Historic District, all construction must be cleared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a possible cause of the delays.

But Hoover believes the resultant Chumley’s — if it ever reopens — will amount to no more than a remake of the once-hallowed speakeasy.

“It’s like they’re doing a replica of Chumley’s for Disney World,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first New York tourist landmark to be re-created. Not ‘restored,’ but re-created. One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old brick walls are now cinderblock that will be coated with fake plaster to look like the original. Maybe they’ll have a gift shop.” 

L.E.S. duo available
Two longstanding Lower East Side commercial buildings featuring nearly 22,000 square feet of space combined have hit the market on Essex and Ludlow Sts.

Owned by neighborhood merchandiser Eisner Brothers, the properties at 75 Essex St. and 55 Ludlow St. have acted as storage for the company’s wares for years before coming online in recent weeks.

The warehouse at 75 Essex St. — featuring 12,500 square feet over four stories with 20-foot ceilings, and including more than 19,000 square feet of air rights — would suit a discount clothing retailer, said James Famularo, senior executive managing director at Coldwell Banker Commercial. An automotive-supplies store and several major drugstore chains have already expressed interest in the space, but Famularo believes a lower-cost clothing store like TJ Maxx would prove a better fit.

“I can definitely see an escalator being put in there and shopping on every level,” he said, pointing to the Bloomingdale’s on Broadway between Spring and Prince Sts. in Soho. “A big discount clothing retailer would probably be the optimal use.”

With an asking rent of $60 per square foot for the space, multiple nightclub operators have shown interest, Famularo said. But the broker added that the property’s location across the street from a school and the owners’ unwillingness to see it used as a late-night venue have limited the options.

Just down the street, the six-story property at 55 Ludlow St. has also gotten its share of interest from prospective tenants, most recently from a nightlife venture and a private school, said broker Lauren Schelsinger. The property, between Grand and Hester Sts., contains a full basement, backyard, elevator and 11-to13-foot ceilings throughout, and is rentable for $36 per square foot.

“Even with this rate,” Schlesinger said, “everything’s negotiable.”

‘For Rent’ sign of times
During the less than two years it took for the nation’s credit crisis to develop into a full-fledged meltdown, available sublease space in Manhattan rose nearly 50 percent, ending 2008 at a level not seen since after 9/11.

According to a report from Jones Lang LaSalle, 4 million square feet of sublease space has come onto the market over the past 18 months, finishing last year with a total of approximately 12 million square feet across the borough.

Of that total square footage, 2.7 million lies in the Downtown market, south of Canal St., while the Midtown market claims 9.9 million square feet. More than three-quarters of Downtown’s available sublease space, 2.1 million square feet, is located in Class A properties.

“While layoffs were announced throughout 2008, sublease options did not begin coming to the market until the latter part of the year,” said James Delmonte, vice president and director of research at J.L.L.’s New York office. “We anticipate Manhattan will see rising levels of sublease space into at least midyear 2009.”

At the peak of the previous down cycle, from 2001 to 2004, Manhattan posted a total of 14.4 million square feet of sublease space, the report stated.

In New York, leasing volume has fallen nearly 41 percent since the second quarter of 2007. Manhattan posted 4.4 million square feet of leasing activity at the end of 2008, compared to 7.5 million square feet in deal volume in the second quarter of 2007.

According to the report, due to the spike in sublease space and slowing tenant demand, the average asking rental price for office space in the borough dropped 3.1 percent over the past two quarters, falling to $70.19 per square foot in the final quarter of the year from $72.37 per square foot in the second quarter of 2008.

Nationally, available sublease space has climbed 28.5 percent since the second quarter of 2007, and is expected to increase even more in the coming months as continued job cuts reduce the need for office space. In the fourth quarter of last year, according to J.L.L.’s nationwide tally of the country’s top retail markets, sublease space rose by nearly 7 million square feet from the previous quarter, with another 40 million to 50 million square feet to possibly come online by mid-2009.


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