As Younger Renters Move to the UES, Trendy Commercial Tenants Follow

January 27, 2015

Say goodbye to afternoon tea and hello to happy hour, via roboppy via photopin cc

You don’t have to tell us twice that the Upper East Side is trading its reputation as a stodgy, ladies-who-lunch spot for a younger, more hip vibe. Not only do we think it’s a hidden hot spot for artists, but we recently profiled the unofficial “new” Upper East Side, the high 80s and 90s, clustered between Park and 1st Avenues. And let’s not forget how the Second Avenue subway is already shaking things up.

But with a new generation of Upper East Siders gobbling up the surprisingly affordable real estate offerings, it’s no surprise that trendy commercial spots are also getting in on the action. Small, local shops and restaurants create little communities that you might expect to find in brownstone Brooklyn, and larger, big-name businesses like Warby Parker and Whole Foods promise to make it a neighborhood to rival Union Square or Chelsea.

UES Meatball Shop
The Upper East Side Meatball Shop via Glenwood NYC

An article exploring the trend in Crain’s likens the new Upper East Side crowd to the downtown/Brooklyn hipster scene: “…the mix on the Upper East Side now includes its share of people with beards and tattoos, not to mention those who eat vegan muffins. Lured to the neighborhood by rents that are well below those in Williamsburg and the Lower East Side, and a plethora of building types—from walk-ups to high-rises—young creatives are streaming in and giving the area a new vibe.” And popular establishments that have already found success elsewhere with this demographic are now opening outposts uptown. Shake Shack on 86th Street is constantly filled with hungry burger lovers; there’s a vegan bakery on First Avenue and 74th Street; the hoards of laptop-equipped youngsters at coffee shop Café Jax make you wonder if NYU opened a dorm in the 70s; and the Meatball Shop on Second Avenue and 76th Street “is the six-unit chain’s highest-volume store—outgrossing locations in Williamsburg and on the Lower East Side.”

Old Whitney Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel Straus, Marcel Breuer
Rendering of the transformed Madison Avenue block where the Apple store is taking shape, via Neoscape

And the retail scene is just as hot as the booming restaurant businesses. Work on a new Apple store at East 74th Street and Madison Avenue is already underway, where the worldwide chain will pay $3.8 million in annual rent. Manhattan-based affordable eyewear company Warby Parker opened its first location in Soho, followed by a Meatpacking District outpost. Last spring, they opened a third spot in the historic Lascoff Drugs building on Lexington and 82d. The brand’s cofounder said the decision stemmed from the realization that many of their downtown customers actually lived uptown.

Rents for retail space on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg are about $250 per square foot; on Broadway in Soho it’s $700. But on the Upper East Side, asking prices range from $150 -$600 per square foot on Lexington Avenue, and only between $85 and $100 on First Avenue.

[Related: The New Upper East Side: Changes Are Coming Above 86th Street]

[Related: Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Second Avenue Subway Already Sending Real Estate Prices Soaring]

[Via Crain’s]

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