As Omicron Bears Down on Retailers, Landlords Get Creative to Fill Space

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By New York Times

Tenants are being offered concessions like reduced rates and customized spaces, while vacant storefronts are being filled with pop-up shops and works by local artists.

In the fall of last year, many retail landlords were breathing a sigh of relief. They had gone all out to fill empty storefronts during the grimmest days of the pandemic, offering concessions to tenants and saying yes to pop-ups. That strategy appeared to pay off.

By the third quarter of 2021, the storefront scene was recovering in many parts of the country. Thanks to vaccinations, the return of international travelers and pent-up consumer demand, shoppers were flocking to malls and downtown districts and prospective tenants were signing leases. Asking rents, which had plunged in 2020, were leveling out and even rising in some places.

But the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may throw a wrench in the recovery, and landlords may need to extend temporary measures to fill empty spaces.

At the Oculus, the transit hub and shopping mall in Lower Manhattan, foot traffic has fallen precipitously recently, said Diana Grasso, the vice president of Westfield World Trade Center. “You saw the impact almost immediately,” she said.

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