Will Macy’s Build a Herald Square Skyscraper?
How will that change The World’s Largest Store?
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Reporting by David Stone
UPDATE, MAY 12TH, 2021:
The answer is, “Yes,” according to a report in 6sqft.
“The plan is getting closer to reality thanks to a $235 million private investment in transit accessibility and public infrastructure. This includes upgraded subway access, improved transit connections, ADA-accessible elevators, and a modernized car-free Herald Square and Broadway Plaza.”
Macy’s is working with Community Board 5 on a final plan, but no completion target has yet been announced.
END OF UPDATE
Taking into account the building already filling an entire block along 34th Street between 7th Avenue and Broadway, Macy’s skyscraper may challenge the rooftop of the Empire State Building.
That icon’s just a little over a block away.
Why build a Macy’s skyscraper in Herald Square?
Like it’s retail theme, this is about the money. But the difference is, it’s about grabbing a green slice of the office market. And retail reality being what it is, Macy’s needs to counter faltering store sales.
Now, it’s office space for sale.
Some of this was obvious at Christmas. Anyone hitting Herald Square for the superstore’s seasonal windows saw the “economy” mode. The good news: not a lot of happy tourists clogging up the space.
Or the store.
Technically speaking, the 2019 windows sucked.
Only mind numbing budget cuts get kind of results disappointed visitors gaped at, wondering “Where’s the rest of it?” Budget cuts and bad judgment. Who saves by amputating the most attractive features?
Macy’s building a skyscraper over Herald Square makes more sense, however.
In the neighborhood
34th Street is not the retail juggernaut you expect with tourists looking way, way up at the Empire State Building before braving the perfume fog on Macy’s main floor.
One long block west is Penn Station, awash with commuters praying that neither the MTA nor New Jersey Transit will screw them today. And that’s the upside. Opposite Penn is the closest New York has to a skid row, these days.
There have been improvements, but Macy’s remains a prince among relative paupers in the neighborhood. They’re the magnet, the hub the keeps traffic coming and going.
Macy’s in trouble
The marketplace is changing, and Macy fights for viability in a universe settling online.
Malls find that anchor tenants no longer warrant sweetheart deals because they no longer attract as much traffic. Many of Macy’s stores now underperform, and they say they are closing 125.
And that means laying off thousands… and turning to other forms of revenue. Like real estate. Skyscrapers.
Who knows what this means for Herald Square? A Macy’s glass skyscraper changes the external character of the store, but what about the traffic restricted area out front?
How will the area’s touristy character react? How much more sunlight can Midtown sacrifice to glass soaring upward without impoverishing the streets?
Although plans will be chewed and re-chewed between developers and the City, a skyscraper will be built if Macy’s needs it. And few, if any, alternatives exist.
Retail’s not coming back, but the hunger for office space in Manhattan seems ravenous.
Change is coming for Herald Square. Wise, civic minded judgment makes the best companion.