Vacant Retail Spaces: Why? What, If Anything, Can Be Done?

You would have to have been in Brooklyn Heights for over five years to remember when the last tenant, Starbucks, moved out of 112 Montague Street (photo) to a smaller space a block away. Since then, apart from being used as storage space for Lassen & Hennigs next door, the space has lain fallow. While there are no similar long-term vacancies on Montague (well; there’s the Bossert, which is not quite vacant because of a few holdover tenants, but that’s another story), there are others not far away.

Why? Greedy landlords? Bricks-and-mortar retail is dying because of the internet? Daniel Roberts in The Bridge has examined the reasons, and finds many in addtion to those just mentioned. A tight market for financing, both for real estate and for start-up businesses is one. Complexities of property ownership–I once read of a building in, as I recall, DUMBO, that was inherited jointly by, I think, five siblings, who could never agree on what to do with it–is another. As for solutions to the problem, many have been proposed, but nothing seems to be a priority for the present city administration.

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  • Love Laner

    An important and complex problem…I’m not sure what the solution is but something needs to be done. It’s more than just an eyesore. I recently read that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is working on legislation that would penalize landlords who keep property vacant for long periods of time. Perhaps unlikely that it would pass but it’s something and maybe will start useful dialogue.

    I’m also curious if other cities in the US or abroad are experiencing this issue/what they’ve done to combat it.

  • C.

    Adding on to this. It’s not retail, but what can be done of the property on the corner of Clark and Monroe. Ever since the stop demolition order, the landlord has done absolutely nothing with it. Letting it sit like that, for what feels like 10 years. Why on Earth would he stop demolition just to let it sit and fall apart slowly? It needs to be demolished no matter what the plans are. It’s worth more as a lot than what it is now. I just don’t get it.

  • Brookyln Mom

    Even if the landlord is holding out for the “right” tenant, there are so many things they could do, to fill the space in the short term. Perhaps, a fair of independent vendors like they have throughout the city, or a pop up shop? Or, imagine a temporary art exhibit? (I know, never gonna happen!). What if a local Public School held their holiday fair there to raise money for the school?

    While these temporary solutions may not bring in the same $ as the big box stores, they would make the space seem more desirable to prospective tenants, bring in some money to the landlord and actually benefit the neighborhood and the other businesses on the street. I understand the landlord is looking for the most money, but $0 rent in 5 years seems like a waste all around.

  • Eddyde

    ” $0 rent in 5 years seems like a waste all around” Nah, he’s writing it off as a loss.

  • Pierrepont

    Tax loss harvesting is the answer. Whatever other investments the owners may have, they can write off a portion of the profit with losses from the empty store on Montague Street.

  • Teresa

    Work has been going on daily on that building for months.

  • Arch Stanton

    Rumor has it, the owner is a real a-hole and very difficult to deal with. People start negotiating a lease then back away… Perhaps it’s a ploy to keep it vacant, as a tax shelter.

  • KXrVrii1

    Maybe if he / she has other rental properties, they could offset income from other properties with the loss from this one, which would mitigate the carrying costs of the vacant property.

    But it doesn’t magically make the loss disappear, they’d still be ahead if they had income at both properties.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Landlady, not landlord. And she has had crews at work for months and months. She even did a program at the Brooklyn Historical Society last summer where she talked about how she got this renovation back on track. But, back to your bellyaching…

  • C.

    A woman can’t be a landlord? That place is beyond repair. Since you have so much information on the subject, why don’t you share? Or, you know, just keep being a prick. Whatever works.

  • Ykwhthis

    Instead of focusing, as you all always do, at the landlord, you need to aim higher and look at what the two real enabling factors are; First, it’s the behavior of the banking and other funding sources and secondly it’s the behavior of various levels of the policy making community both government and the NGO’s. Look, you can’t buy or sell a building without some financial type writing the paper. You aren’t going to have landlord behavior like this if such vacancies in a building’s record would discourage refinancing or make the refinancing more expensive. Second, the nonuse of space should be discouraged by policy but it’s not the opposite is the case. In our bankocracy, we have produced, especially in NY real estate a perfect tulip craze…one effect of which is that before the collapse, or a disaster, a few elements become so awash in money that they are uncaring of just about anyone/anything.

  • ykwhthis

    Well, no nothing benefiting the Heights or Western Civilization in general is ever going to come out of certain elements, especially the newly rich elements in the RE world. But you have to remember how much good DOES come out of various older elements among owners of RE in this town both large and small. Individual owner finance many churches and some of the really most promising medical research. But aided by the larger financial institutions the worst RE elements engage in abuses which stretch far higher than what you are trying to address here. Doing very serious damage to this city and it’s social (and spiritual) fabric…..

  • ykwhthis….

    I know this will be unwelcome (but totally accurate) observation, but this is Exactly what Tounsand and Fr Coughin said was going happen…..

  • AEB

    Father Coughlin, Jeffrey! (And why do you keep slipping in and out of your actual posting identity?) Why not reference Emperor Herohito?

  • DIBS

    Yeah, OK. SMH

  • DIBS

    He/She just provided some.

  • Arch Stanton

    How do you know it’s “beyond repair”, what information do you have or what qualifications do you have to determine that?

  • miriamcb

    I seem to remember one of the reasons Sbux left was in part because of a leak in the ceiling that the landlord refused to fix. I’ve heard similar things as below – negotiating with that landlord is a nightmare and the space may not be totally suitable for use without some more than minor repairs.

  • ykwhthis

    First, what, in even your world, do the Japanese have to do with this topic? But secondly, what about any of my statements is in accurate? This is all the end of the classic debt upward spike. With all the social evils (and spiritual degradations) which always occur.

    Its very simple, …if the major financial institutions don’t write the paper, and the policy sector doesn’t approve it, including just by inaction, all these abuses can’t go on.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Well ordinarily, the commercial Tennant would take legal action at that point. The real problem is that is is difficult to proceed against a defendant who has almost unlimited access to funding. So it’s inevitably the policies/behavior of the funding sources which allow/cause the formation of a class which act irresponsibly, if this is indeed the case in this matter.

    (sigh) Remember when an an owner kept his property in good order because he simply felt it was the right thing to do? Or that if he didn’t it was a bad refection or his, or worse, his family’s good name? Did that NYC ever exist? I seem to remember a time that…..

  • DIBS

    His last sentence, “I just don’t get it.”

  • C.

    Maybe because it had to be vacated and has been falling apart for years. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s improved in all that time. It’s like you all have some attachment to this eyesore. I remember why I don’t come here anymore. Nothing but sad, angry people looking to bicker. I’ll leave you to it.

  • C.

    You radiate positive energy. Must kill at parties. I have a term for prick supporters. Jock straps.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Yes a woman can be a landlord. You assumed it was a man (you wrote “he”). I used the word “landlady” to gently point out your sexist assumption.

    Anyway, back to the building. Since it’s currently being repaired, it’s unclear why you write “beyond repair.”

    Here, let me google that for you:

    “100 Clark Street”

  • ykwhthis….

    Your two rebuttals are excellent, and long needed.

    But that aside, one highly visible effect of a long empty store is that obnoxious “person” (boy would like to use more descriptive terms) who sits at night and targets certain people with verbal abuse and personal insulting comments especially if you don’t give him 💰

    The reality is that any unused or little used dark section on any major corridor is very likely to collect the less reasonable among us. Now why do we have to put up with this kind of thing.

  • Arch Stanton

    How was I being “sad, angry” nor did I say I have any attachment to the building. Just how you determined it was “beyond repair”. as I surmised, it was just an assumption and some sad, angry complaining, coming from you.

  • Lydia

    The Bridge BK recently featured an interesting article on the subject as well:

  • Claude Scales

    That was the very article I linked in my top post.

  • Andrew Porter

    There are many articles on line about the reconstruction, for instance this one, from The Real Deal, with photos of what the building used to look like, and very extensive architectural renderings of what it will look like when finished:

  • Andrew Porter

    I was told recently that the roof leak has been fixed, by the same people who redid the sidewalk.