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Hotels, investment transform stretch of Broadway

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Meet Manhattan’s new commercial-boom corridor: Broadway from East 26th Street to West 34th. The increasingly vibrant stretch spans four micro-markets typically regarded as distinct: Nomad, Koreatown, Greeley Square and Herald Square.

But there’s growing continuity thanks to new development and investment. Even as the pandemic remains a force, glamorous new hotels are ready to open; office buildings have been repositioned and “re-imagined”; and rents are holding up in a tough market.

Even the long-shabby retail scene is on the upswing as shops like wine merchant Vin Sur Vingt and hip eateries like The Smith replace discount jewelry and electronics merchants.

Marcus & Millichap investment-sale broker Eric Anton mused, “Could Herald Square be the new Bryant Park?”

Anton is marketing the leasehold recapitalization of the bankrupt, 120-year-old Martinique hotel at 1260 Broadway at West 32nd Street. The 531-key landmark, currently closed, includes 13,000 square feet of retail. It just completed a six-year, $40 million renovation/restoration.

Sources said the leasehold’s remaining 68 years could fetch in the $70 million-$75 million range. Anton said the current owners would prefer a joint-venture arrangement. He said two JV offers have already come in, with both bidders hoping to reopen the Martinique as a Hilton Curio-flagged inn to guests later this year.

Anton is also marketing a 99-year leasehold at 1270 Broadway, a prewar office building facing Greeley Park and next door to the Martinique. Both offerings, he said, reflect a wish by longtime family owners to exploit the area’s rising fortunes. He said office building sale offerings on Broadway are asking $500 to $700 per square foot.

The rental scene south of Herald Square has held up reasonably well in today’s weakened markets. Overall asking rents including sublease space averaged $75 per square foot in the fourth quarter and vacancies 11.4 percent, according to CBRE. The latter marked a large jump over 6 percent in 2019 but compared favorably with a current overall Manhattan vacancy rate of 15 percent.

Typifying the optimistic spirit is Global Holdings Management Group’s recent $50 million redesign of 1250 Broadway. To orient the office tower to increasingly chic Nomad, they moved the entrance from the bustling, restaurant-packed block of West 32nd to West 31st Street.

But Anton believes that the Korean-food concentration is an asset. “During the worst winter in the city’s history, 32nd Street had more outdoor seats than anywhere else,” Anton said.

Ritz-Carlton in foreground and Virgin Hotel in background.
Ritz-Carlton in foreground and Virgin Hotel in background.
Steve Cuozzo

The corridor which Anton says was once known as the “perfume and socks district” is “blossoming rapidly,” agreed CBRE’s Paul Amrich, vice chairman of his firm’s New York City Advisory & Transaction Services Group. He credited the trend to excellent subway service and to the spirits-lifting effect of new hotels that will soon include a Ritz-Carlton and a huge Virgin Hotel in the West 20s.

His team is marketing 150,000 square feet of offices at 1245 Broadway, a nearly finished new building at Broadway and West 31st Street. It scored a retail coup with a lease for a “plant-based” restaurant from star chef Matthew Kenney to open in 2022.

It’s a far cry from greasy sausages that are still sold on some sidewalks — and a taste of things to come.


Union Square’s image as a vibrant, multi-use neighborhood took an unfair hit when a few popular restaurants facing the park closed last year.

To counteract the negative impression, a report just out from the Union Square Partnership found the district seething anew with commercial energy.

Thirty-three stores and restaurants have either opened or announced plans to open since January 2020. Target will open at 10 Union Square East in 2023. This year will see the arrival of a giant UrbanSpace food hall at the new, mixed-use project known as Zero Irving at 124 E. 14th St. Also coming are Café Salmagundi, Gorin Ramen, Concepts International footwear and Happy Socks.

Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Falk cited the area’s strength as a true “15-minute neighborhood” with a “wealth of amenities and resources within walking distance or a short bike ride.”

The Partnership said the influx “underscores the resiliency of the district,” which is home to businesses of all types, the Union Square Greenmarket, the New School, 73,000 residents and beloved retailers such as the Strand bookstore.

One million square feet of development and redevelopment, reflecting $850 million in investment, are also recharging the batteries. The onetime Tammany Hall building at 44 Union Square had a dramatic restoration and expansion including a multi-story glass dome, for commercial use. A hotel is due at 16 E. 16th St. Two boutique condo buildings are rising at Sixth Avenue and West 14th Street.


So, everybody’s heading for Miami, right? Well, a hugely popular Miami men’s hair salon is coming to New York.

The Spot Barbershop will soon launch its first expansion outside Florida at 332 Bowery between East Second and Third streets. Newmark’s JD Cohen and Michael Paster repped the tenant while the firm’s Brandon Eisenman and Andrew Connolly acted for the landlord.

The lease is for 4,600 square feet. “We started looking for space back in November during the height of COVID-19, as they were very bullish on expanding to the New York City market,” said Cohen.

Spot offers haircuts and grooming for men at three Miami locations among 18 in South Florida.

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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