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Here’s How a Big Box Retailer, Target, Ended Up at Essex Crossing

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Essex Crossing Site 5. Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle.
Essex Crossing Site 5. Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle.

As the whole neighborhood knows by now, a Target store is coming to Essex Crossing (145 Clinton St.). Many people are dismayed about the arrival of a big box (technically medium box) store on the Lower East Side. Others are looking forward to the convenience of a local Target. Since the news broke on Sunday, readers have been asking, “Didn’t the Seward Park development plan prohibit big box stores?” Here’s the answer to that question.

The subject of big box retail was a point of contention during years of community board deliberations over the formerly city-owned sites. Most community members were strongly opposed to chain stores and large corporate stores.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) that went out in 2012 compelled developers to establish at least two distinct storefronts in ground floor spaces along Delancey Street. Three storefronts were required on Broome Street. An exception was made for a grocery store (the project includes a 30,000 square foot Trader Joe’s below-grade at 145 Grand St.) The provisions effectively forced larger retailers to the second or third floors of some buildings. But the restrictions did not cover Grand and Clinton streets.

A section of the RFP titled, “Community Priorities” placed a limit of 30,000 square feet on retail establishments. As we reported in September of 2012, the city would not budge on this point, refusing to insert the provision into the main body of the RFP.  In a community board meeting earlier that year, a city official said a project with only small-scale retail was not “sustainable.” The official, David Quart, said an “anchor tenant” was essential to the success of the project. Quart said the idea was to attract a good mix of retail businesses – some small, some large – offering a diversity of products at various price points.

Years later a 22,500 square foot Target on the second floor is part of Essex Crossing. The project, of course, also includes the Market Line, a 150,000 square foot public market made up of mostly micro-retailers. Most of the large spaces in the first phase of development are already claimed, so it’s unlikely we’ll see more big box retail when the first buildings open next year. The second and third phases of the project? That’s another story.

A spokesperson for the development team says they actually went beyond the requirements of the RFP. A 65,000 square foot movie theater (an amenity the community requested) is located on the second and third floors of a building on Site 2 of the project.  The grocery could have been placed on the main floor but is instead in a basement space.

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