In a previous post I talked about the benefits that parks and retail may stand to gain from being co-tenants. Today, we look at specific ways in which retail has been incorporated into our parks and open spaces. Depending on the size of your public space, you may decide to incorporate permanent retail spaces or temporary, seasonal ones that can easily be taken down to make room for more pedestrians and park users. Either way, these additional retail spaces can be great opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs to test new markets, if made convenient and affordable.

Case Study 1: Times Square Plaza
Vendor: Coffeed, a NYC-Based coffee chain
Space: 100SF, in the center of Manhattan’s most trafficked area.
Leasing: The Times Square Alliance, the local non-profit BID, designates an area within Times Square for interested vendors who are then required to build their own structures. Electricity, rubbish removal services, as well as security are provided by Times Square Alliance.
Estimated Rent: $20,000/ month with a revenue share of 8% of sales. Times Square Alliance leased the space via Appear [here], an online listing platform that matches temporary, pop-up retail spaces with creative brands and entrepreneurs.
Added benefits to the vendor: Co-branding and promotional opportunities with the BID on its social media platforms and through other initiatives that the Alliance provides to the tourist, business and residential community.

Case Study 2: Astor Place

Photo: The Village Alliance

 

Vendors: La Newyorkina and Astor Plate, NYC- based businesses that both had existing storefronts in nearby neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and TriBeCa
Space: 110SF (La Newyorkina) and 200SF (Astor Plate)
Photo: The Village Alliance
Leasing: The plaza in which the kiosks currently sit is property of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). However, the local Business Improvement District (BID), the Village Alliance, has a contract with DOT to maintain the plaza. Kiosk vendors contract directly with the BID.
The procurement and bidding process of kiosk operators was a long process, according to William Lewis, Marketing and Events Director of the Village Alliance.  The BID wanted to ensure that they were tapping into existing local businesses and building kiosks that were respectful of the surrounding environment and community. Not only did the BID strive to keep local favorite, MUD coffee, being served at the kiosks, the BID also ensured the design of the kiosks were contextual. For example, the kiosk on the south end of the plaza is a metal structure that reflects the style and aesthetic of  the famous Alamo sculpture (the Cube) and the kiosk design of La Newyorkina on the northern end of the plaza features a hand-painted mural that reflects the local neighborhood.
Like in Times Square, selected operators built their own structures but worked closely with the Village Alliance to finalize designs.
 
Ensuring success: According to Will (Village Alliance), the kiosks are really popular and doing very well a year since their opening. Their success lends itself to creative menus, a variety of products, a strong daytime population, and of course strong connections to the local neighborhood.

 

The location of the public plaza by new office developments and the Cooper Union School ensures that the kiosks get strong foot traffic throughout the day. In addition, the BID arranges outdoor tables, chairs, and parasols (like in Times Square!) to support the congregation of large groups and encourage outdoor dining in the warmer months.
Case Study 3: Hunters Point South Park

 

Vendor: LIC Landing by NYC-Based COFFEED features a healthy selection of locally-sourced food offerings, craft beers, fine wines, and specialty coffees and teas. COFFEED is also a charity-minded café known for donating a percentage of its revenue to local charities.
Space: 1,500 SF, at Hunter’s Point South Park, Long Island City’s waterfront recreation destination.
Leasing: The concession spaces was designed and built during the initial development of the park. Bids were later put out for operators by the NYC Parks department.
Case Study 4: Union Square Park
Market: UrbanSpace has operated the Union Square Holiday Market for over two decades
Space: 30,000SF with about 100 vendors, of which 75% are NYC-based. Individual booth sizes range from half-booths (50SF) to double booths (200SF)
Leasing: The market is made possible via a five-year agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation negotiated with the market’s operator and founder. The Parks Department opens a round of competitive bidding, issuing a detailed request for proposals and site visits for prospective bidders.
Selected market operators then hold open application calls for interested vendors online.
Estimated Rent: Vendor spaces average between $6,000-$18,000 per vendor, depending on location and size of booths. Each year, UrbanSpace has netted around $2.7 million in vendor fees and compensated the City over $1.5 million.
Case Study 5: Downtown Detroit Parks
Market: Winter in Detroit is sponsored by Bedrock and Quicken Loans Family of CompaniesDetroit Downtown Partnership collaborates with the nearby property owners to organize the seasonal markets.
Space: 130SF, pre-fabricated glass structures designed by Philadelphia-based Groundswell Design Group
Leasing: The market operators hold open application calls for interested vendors online. Vendors are selected based on unique and creative retail concepts, quality products and packaging, design of booths, and originality of brand
Estimated Rent: $1,000 for the season (inclusive of electrical, lighting, heating, and security) According to reports, the 38 selected businesses generated more than $2 million in sales between November and January.
Regardless of retail model and leasing structure, we must remember not to get carried away with commercializing parks and public plazas whose first objective is to provide spaces of relief from urban living and circulation opportunities. There is always the potential that highly-curated retail experiences with higher price points may indiscreetly exclude a segment of the population that has less disposable income and therefore is less likely to enjoy a costly park retail experience.
Incorporating free experiences with the retail activities may alleviate such impacts. Last season, at the Union Square Holiday Market in NYC, for example, there were free goodies and interactive photo booths open-to-all. Candy and cups of hot chocolate were distributed for free to all visitors- thanks to sponsorship by Citibank. These goodies were handed out at the sponsor’s booth, where free mobile device charging stations and warming stations and lounge seating were also offered – much needed respite from the cold of winter.
As the weather clears up in the coming weeks *fingers crossed*, keep your eyes peeled for the growing trend of retail concepts in your local park and let us know if you think it’s a much-needed public space activation strategy!