The Hub in the south Bronx could face challenging retail future

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A business in The Hub
Courtesy of Live XYZ

A new report from HR&A Advisors revealed that The Hub at the south Bronx’s 149th Street and Third Avenue corridor will face major problems as it looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

HR&A completed the work in partnership with Live XYZ, allowing HR&A to create a map of places and how they change over time.

The study, which was released July 6, examined the strengths and weaknesses facing The Hub, Jackson Heights in Queens and Madison Avenue in Midtown. HR&A looked at preexisting vacancy rates, the percentage of essential businesses that never had to close; chain stores that would likely be better able to absorb an economic hit and businesses’ abilities to take advantage of more relaxed outdoor seating rules.

The Hub, situated in a low-income community of color in the south Bronx, is the least resilient retail spot in New York City to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the study. It had the highest percentage of essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, in the retail areas examined at 27 percent. Those stores never had to close, which makes them more likely to survive and provides a point of strength for retail corridors to build on, according to the report. However, just 16 percent of businesses in The Hub are chain stores and only 40 percent have enough space for sidewalk seating.

The Hub, which is a bustling shopping destination for many Bronx residents, has a 12 percent vacancy rate. The immediately surrounding neighborhood, a community of color with 67 percent Hispanic and 29 percent black residents has a 46 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the city.

The borough’s COVID case rate is higher than the citywide average, and its unemployment rate increased from 4.9 percent to 16.5 percent between January and April. These numbers may limit both the neighborhood and other Bronx consumers’ ability to support Hub businesses.

While most eateries have outdoor seating right now, less than half of such establishments in The Hub can create sidewalk seating. In Jackson Heights and on Madison Avenue, almost two-thirds of these businesses can create sidewalk seating.

A business in the Hub Courtesy of Live XYZ