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59TH STREET-COLUMBUs CIRcLE
Two weeks ago, the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced it had tapped Columbus Development to build, curate and manage Shop//Stop, an unprecedented 27,000-square-foot retail concourse at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway station. As part of the plan, the developer will invest $6.5 million in capital improvements to the concourse, through which 21 million commuters pass each year. Columbus Development Principal Susan Fine, who previously worked on retail projects at the World Financial Center and Grand Central Terminal, spoke to The Commercial Observer last week about the unique challenges and opportunities presented by this public-private project. “We’re trying to create a family of stores—a curated group of stores—which will both serve the transit rider and the population on the street,” she said.
It is expected that somewhere between 25 and 30 retailers will populate the concourse at Shop// Stop. The vendors will be a mix of dining and what Ms. Fine describes as “grab ’n’ go”—those things commuters need on a day-to-day basis. “Do you need to pick up a prescription? There are items that commuters need, whether because they are going home and forgot an anniversary present or it’s a logical need. All of those uses are very appropriate for a transit environment,” she said. The unique challenges presented by operating in a transit hub will be solved for retailers by Columbus Development. “We’re going to be delivering our tenants a white box,” Ms. Fine said. “We’ll deal with issues of heat, cooling and garbage.” Lighting issues underground will be solved by LED lighting and projections onto the walls. “We’ll be making use of the technology that lights up the Times Square New Year’s ball but in a less dramatic way,” Ms. Fine described.
The development, to be open 12 hours per day, will start with two entries, one near the Museum of Art and Design at 2 Columbus Circle and one at 57th Street.
Located adjacent to the subway in a “free zone,” shoppers won’t have to pay to go to our stores. “That’d be a little weird,” Ms. Fine joked. There will, however, be direct access to the subway system, with turnstiles on the north end of the retail concourse.
Though there are systems and storefronts in the space now that were built out by the MTA, Columbus Development will now alter the layout to cater to its speciﬁc leasing plan. “We are working on letters of intent now,” Ms. Fine said. “We have had a tremendous response and will open in spring 2015.”
Though there aren’t any speciﬁc plans available now, Columbus Development will address the potential issues created by Internet use underground, speciﬁcally in regard to credit card transactions. “We’re going to create an environment that will hopefully incorporate the ways in which the Internet has changed retail,” Ms. Fine said.
38 | NOVEMBER 26, 2013 | COMMERCIAL OBSERVER