Volume 79, Number 38 | February 24 - March 2, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
By Patrick Hedlund
Shake Shack beaten back
A group of Downtown neighbors have successfully fended off a bid by trendy takeout joint Shake Shack to open a new outpost in Little Italy after pursuing a vocal campaign against the popular burger purveyor.
The Danny Meyer-helmed fast-food restaurant, which had been seeking to open at the corner of Prince and Mulberry Sts. across the street from the 195-year-old St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, had previously stated that it could serve up to 100 customers per hour on the understated stretch. But plans for the property only offered 30 seasonal seats on the restaurant’s proposed open-air roof and just a few inside the space — creating fear among locals that the area would be flooded with burger-chomping transients.
“We were incredibly excited about investing in such an authentic neighborhood with its bustling retail scene and vibrant street life,” read a statement from Shake Shack C.E.O. David Swinghamer. “Unfortunately, we could not solve the problem of building something that both made good business sense and was harmonious with the concerns of immediate neighbors. We are proud of our history of opening restaurants that strengthen their communities, and we’ll continue to seek out unique locations in neighborhoods where a Shake Shack will be cherished and have much to contribute.”
After a recent Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Licensing Committee meeting, at which residents erupted in opposition to the plan, Meyer arranged a meeting with board chairperson Jo Hamilton to inform her that he would abandon the project.
“Shake Shack had decided on their own that they would not pursue this location,” she said, adding, “And I think it’s a very classy thing to do,” for Meyer to tell the board personally that he was pulling out.
Locals had worried that in addition to the influx of patrons to the area — which would result in “trash, sanitation and traffic congestion generated by the production of over 1,500 carryout meals a day,” according to a community statement — the restaurant’s presence would also negatively impact neighbors living in an adjacent building. Concerns were also raised regarding the restaurant’s bid to obtain a liquor license, a move that startled some, leaving them wondering where customers would drink the alcohol with so few on-site seats.
“Yes, there was opposition, but I think Shake Shack has come to realize that its attitude toward communities is in fact to be harmonious with communities,” said Alex Neratoff, an architect and resident of the area for more than 30 years. “I really perceive it as a very honorable withdrawal.”
Neratoff recommended the restaurant find a location with wider streets and more open space — he suggested the intersection of Sixth Ave. and Canal St., for example — that would not “send transient demographics in the street into overload.”
Ultimately, Meyer’s concession seemed to resonate most deeply with the parties involved.
“They didn’t want to be a problem for the neighborhood — that for this location, it wasn’t the right thing,” Hamilton added. “Great minds think alike.”
A three-story Alphabet City building recently sold in an estate sale for $1.32 million, or about $443 per square foot, on Avenue D.
The property, at the southwest corner of Seventh St., contains a ground-floor retail store and two residential units above, according to brokerage Massey Knakal.
The buyer purchased the 2,982-square-foot building, which features about 2,400 additional square feet of air rights, as an investment property and plans to construct additional floors, according to Phillip Huang, a senior associate at Massey Knakal.
“I think that those smaller deals are just getting a ton of interest now,” he said, adding that the site, located on the fringes of the East Village next to large housing projects, generated about 10 offers in two months on the market.
The presence of the Lower Eastside Girls Club — which will build its new, 12-story, eco-friendly headquarters across the street containing nearly 80 mixed-income apartments — also proved a big draw for interested buyers, Huang said.
With properties selling for “under a million and a half, $2 million, you get a lot of people who probably were looking at residential [units] and now they’re looking at some cheaper buildings,” Huang added.