Volume 18 • Issue 38 | February 3 - 9, 2006

Home Depot hammering out lease at Hudson Square

By Alex Schmidt

Home Depot is getting close to an agreement to open a new store in Hudson Square.

The big box chain and Trinity Real Estate have been negotiating a lease for a 107,000-square-foot space at 345 Hudson St., between King and Charlton Sts., one block south of Houston St. Yancey Casey, a Home Depot spokesperson, said that the lease has not yet been signed but that “they are close,” while a spokesperson for Trinity, the property owner, confirmed that the two parties “are talking.”

Carl Weisbrod, president of Trinity’s real estate division, did not confirm discussions with Home Depot but did say the chain would benefit Downtown. “From our perspective, Home Depot would be a great addition to Lower Manhattan,” he said. “It’s a great use given all of the activity and residential growth down here.”

He said the store should not cause traffic problems because many customers going to the store’s Manhattan locations take public transportation.

“I’ve always been in favor of big-box retail in the city,” Weisbrod said, referring to his previous jobs running the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Downtown Alliance business improvement district. He said the city loses a lot of sales tax revenue to the suburbs, adding, “Retail has been one of the biggest issues in Lower Manhattan since before Sept. 11.”

But some of the neighborhood’s longtime residents and business owners reaction to a possible new Home Depot echo familiar gripes that were voiced in the last attempted big-box encroachment in the area, at Pier 40 at W. Houston St. in Hudson River Park. In that 2003 push, community representatives and residents stridently protested what would have been the third Home Depot in Manhattan — the other two being at 23rd and 59th Sts. — feeling it was inappropriate for a park and for the historic, low-scale neighborhood. Ultimately, Hudson River Park Trust dropped commercial development plans of the pier, at least for the time being, and, in an interim plan, installed a large, multiuse sports field in the pier’s courtyard.

A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents Hudson Square, Chelsea and part of the Village and who opposed the Pier 40 big-box plans, said that Quinn has not taken a position yet on a Home Depot on Hudson St. Recourses for blocking such developments must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, said the spokesperson, who declined to give her name. In the Pier 40 situation, for example, parks and sports fields were at stake, while in other cases, commercial developments have been blocked by claims of a site’s historical significance. Neither of these approaches will be available in the case of 345 Hudson St., a non-landmarked building on a wholly commercial stretch of street.

At risk, according to Hudson Square resident Joanne Hendricks, are “the personal touch and character that make New York wonderful.” Hendricks, who has lived in her circa 1850 home for 30 years and sees herself as a caretaker of the historical property, says that the community “does not need a Home Depot.” She and other residents of the neighborhood are loyal patrons of Garber Hardware, where, as Hendricks put it, “they know my name and can give me real advice.”

Garber, established in 1884 and currently run by fifth-generation owner Nathaniel Garber, is one of the businesses that stands to lose if Home Depot opens. Garber, however, is concerned not only as a competing business owner but also as a resident of the neighborhood. “From a business perspective, I’m sure it’ll affect us. But from a New Yorker perspective, I think it’s disgusting,” he said. “The cookie-cutter thing doesn’t appeal to most New Yorkers and that’s exactly why we pay the huge premiums to live here…. Those stores don’t belong here.”

Garber added, “I hope that the residents take up arms, because it’ll be a blight on their neighborhood.”

This time around, though, the deal seems to have been brewing without the knowledge of the community. While the spokesperson from Quinn’s office said they would be watching the deal from here on out, keeping in mind what would inevitably be the “big concerns” of residents, she added that up until the last couple of days, “It was under our radar, too.”

With reporting by Josh Rogers


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