“Retail rents in Manhattan have stabilized over the past year as opposed to moderated,” explains Benjamin Fox, executive vice president of Newmark New Spectrum Retail LLC. “I think that a growing number of owners are cognizant of what is going on in the economy and making efforts to cut deals with qualified retailers. Rather than waiting and hoping that three or four offers are going to come in as opposed to one or two.”

The Spring 2001 Retail Report released by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), found 1,850 Manhattan stores with an aggregate of more than 10 million sq. ft. available as of March 31, a 2 million-sq.-ft. drop in availability from the prior year's survey. Newmark New Spectrum Retail was among the 15 firms which provided information for the REBNY report.

The biannual survey found that the largest inventory of available space is in Midtown at roughly 4.3 million sq. ft. while upper Manhattan had the lowest at 346,964 sq. ft.

It included average asking rents for ground-floor retail space throughout Manhattan. In SoHo between Houston and Broome Street, average asking rents are $145. In Midtown, on Fifth Avenue between 50th street and 59th street, rents climb to $733, among the most expensive retail in the city.

“Retail rents are so subjective,” explains Fox. “There are many factors that tie in. And there is always a story behind these numbers.”

While some areas command staggering rents, Fox suggests keeping things in perspective.

“The motivation behind a lot of this is brand name recognition or expansion on a corporate theme,” Fox says. “You can look at it as cheap advertising as opposed to expensive real estate.”