Celebrating the strength of our community, from tech to tulips
BY JENNIFER E. FALK | Here at the Union Square Partnership, we work with our community and government partners to support the district’s growth and showcase what makes our part of town one of the most dynamic 24/7 neighborhoods in the world.
Through a series of targeted investments, including our clean and safe programs, our beautification efforts, our community programming and capital projects, we dedicate ourselves year-round to ensuring Union Square remains vibrant. Those efforts have kept the area buzzing with energy, as a mix of cutting-edge businesses, diverse retailers and delicious restaurants have moved into the neighborhood over the past year.
As one of the city’s highest-trafficked retail destinations, Union Square draws nearly 350,000 pedestrians daily and more than 35 million annual subway riders. The neighborhood’s popularity has kept the ground-floor retail vacancy rate at a low 2.9 percent.
This past year, 50 new businesses opened, from critically acclaimed restaurants, such as All’onda, The Fourth and ABC Cocina, to retailers, such as Athleta and Scotch & Soda. Complementing the new gyms and juiceries that are building the square’s reputation as a health and wellness hub, Elizabeth Arden also premiered its next-generation spa and beauty boutique, The Red Door.
The technology and creative-services sectors continues to take root in Union Square, as Yelp expanded its office, Spotify grew its headquarters location and MasterCard and Mashable have both signed leases.
According to Jones Lang LaSalle, Midtown South saw the Big Apple’s largest share of tech leasing, accounting for 43.9 percent of the city’s activity, and Union Square is most certainly at the heart of the city’s booming digital growth.
To keep up with this influx of businesses and the expansion of existing ones, the Union Square Partnership has brought more amenities to the area and ensured that the neighborhood remains clean and inviting. Last summer, we continued our work in the community by increasing our free public Wi-Fi network capacity eightfold to accommodate more users than ever before. We also expanded our popular Summer in the Square program with additional fitness classes and performances for all ages in the park. And during the winter months, we lit up 14th St. and the area surrounding the park with 80 festive holiday lights.
The culmination of our work so far in 2014 has been the completion of the north-end renovation project with the opening of The Pavilion, a beautiful new seasonal restaurant open to all park visitors. When patrons enjoy al fresco dining in the park at The Pavilion, they are also helping support vital city services — like the salaries of teachers, firefighters and police officers — as a portion of the revenue generated by the concession goes directly back to the city.
Also in the square’s north end is the treasured Evelyn’s Playground. It’s hard to believe it opened five years ago! The playground has seen a ton of foot traffic during its first five years of operation, so we were happy to dedicate $150,000 in donations from local residents and businesses to install a brand-new safety surface for our littlest constituents this spring. All of this work helps ensure our park will endure as the city’s favorite place to recreate.
In everything that we do, we work with a long list of partners. We are deeply grateful to Mayor de Blasio and his administration, our local Councilmember Rosie Mendez, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, and Community Board 5 for their ongoing support, and to all of our property and business owners, our residents and area employees, our city and state representatives, our board of directors, and our staff and vendors, for their collective contributions to our work over the years to make Union Square a neighborhood for everyone.
Please check our Web site, unionsquarenyc.org, for upcoming community events on both the north and south plazas this summer. We look forward to welcoming you to the Square!
Falk is executive director, Union Square Partnership