The businesses facing huge rent hikes across the street from the Kingsbridge Armory are safe — for now.
The new property owner of 2-12 W. Kingsbridge Road and 2643-2647 Jerome Avenue, in the shadow of the soon-to-be ice center, has agreed at least until September to freeze a rent spike that would have pushed out the local shops.
Rents were set to double on August 1 for the 13 mom-and-pop stores in the building, including the New Capital Restaurant on the corner. But representatives for property manager Levites Realty confirmed to the local merchant coalition and community board chairperson at a meeting Tuesday, July 29 that the new owner will wait on the rent hikes until meeting with each business one-on-one.
In August, the shops will still pay the same rent they have currently been paying.
The merchants were relieved to hear that they had at least another month to come up with a long-term plan — though they are still casting a wary eye on future prospects.
“We are very happy to finally have a meeting, to hear both sides,” said Chris Ramos, vice president of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants Association. “But without a new lease in hand, we don’t really know anything.”
Staff from Levites, the Yonkers-based company handling the one-floor, 19,000 square-foot property, said they are willing to negotiate new leases with existing tenants, said numerous people who were at Tuesday’s meeting.
The property owner had also changed its listing for the building on the website loopnet.com to “off-market” as of Wednesday, July 30. The owner had previously been asking $100 per square foot on the site — some of the highest retail prices in the borough.
Ramos said that some shops would try to negotiate a smaller increase in monthly rent, as well as a lease lasting three-to-five years. Such a lease would expire around the time when the Kingsbridge National Ice Center is set to open across the street.
Merchants first learned of the temporary rent hike freeze when a go-between, realtor Steve Lorenzo, announced it Thursday, July 24 at a public forum hosted by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition at St. Tolentine Church on Fordham.
Lorenzo, a realtor of NAI Friedland, said that the owners are willing to keep existing tenants, if negotiations go well.
“The landlord is sensitive to doing the right thing by the merchants and the community,” he said.
Local leaders praised the owners for at least reaching out to the community to talk — but remained cautious.
“This is another baby step,” said Community Board 7 chairperson Adaline Walker Santiago. “And I hope that this move by ownership is indicative of a willingness to compromise and work together towards a long-term solution.”