Report explores storefront vacancies, retail mix, merchant stories, and changes in the commercial landscape since 2019

July 29, 2022 – Cooper Square Committee, Village Preservation, and East Village Community Coalition, three community-based organizations in Lower Manhattan, are excited to announce the release of their new report, Crisis and Adaptation: Storefront Trends in the East Village, 2019 – 2021. The report provides a deep dive into the commercial landscape of the East Village, building off of the 2019 East Village Commercial District Needs Assessment to provide a 2021 snapshot of the East Village commercial district. 

The report identifies changes in the commercial district since 2019 and current challenges facing the small businesses in the neighborhood, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It depicts a picture of survival amidst ongoing challenges that have led to the closure of numerous local businesses. The findings are based on an on-the-ground survey conducted in the fall of 2021 that recorded business information or vacancy status for all first and second-floor storefronts in the East Village. In addition, the report draws on merchant experiences shared through a 2021 merchant survey and merchant interviews with small business owners.

Report findings:

  • There was a 35% increase in storefront vacancies in the neighborhood from 2019 to 2021. 
  • Of the 333 vacant storefronts observed in 2021, 171 are new vacancies, 149 were also vacant in 2019.
  • Medium and Large Landlords (6 – 60 buildings) own buildings with a majority of storefront spaces overall, and own properties with disproportionately high rates of new vacancies, business closures since 2019, and persistent vacancies.
  • From 2019-2021, 336 businesses in the East Village closed while 257 new businesses opened their doors. 
  • In the neighborhood, Accommodation and Food Services businesses (NAICS 72) declined over twice as much as Retail Trade (NAICS 44-45) and all Other Categories (all other NAICS codes), both of which remained relatively stable. Accommodation and Food Service establishments declined by 6%; Retail Trade businesses, by only 2%.
  • 13 businesses expanded in the neighborhood and 16 relocated to new locations within the neighborhood boundaries. 

In addition to vacancies, retail mix, and landlord trends, the report also explores the perspectives of small business owners in the neighborhood through the collection of a Merchant Survey and merchant interviews. These voices stress the difficulties faced by NYC merchants over the past two years, as well as the neighborhood-based collaborative strategies that have many small businesses to weather these adversities. A merchant leader in the East Village Independent Merchants Association (EVIMA) reported, “The pandemic has been hard but a bright spot has been being part of EVIMA. Sharing information and experiences has made me want to work harder with other businesses.”

Through this new report, Cooper Square Committee, Village Preservation, and East Village Community Coalition hope to shed light on current conditions impacting the East Village commercial district and small business owners, and provide recommendations for further strengthening the commercial district and East Village business community. 

Read the full report.