Feb. 28, 2014 By Christian Murray
Sunnyside Shines, a business improvement group that’s role is to promote Sunnyside’s commercial district, put forward a plan at its annual meeting Wednesday that aims to bring a wider range of retail stores to the area.
The organization plans to launch a “retail attraction program” with the express goal of recruiting retail stores that will bring more shoppers to the area as well as better serve residents.
The program is based on the findings of JGSC Group, a market research firm that noted that there is an imbalance in the number of service stores–such as hair and nail salons– to that of traditional retail stores. The consultancy firm reported that the district needs more retail businesses to attract a greater number of shoppers to the area.
The BID said that it plans to target clothing stores, shoe stores, general merchandise, housewares, independent coffee stores, full service restaurants and a bicycle shop—based on the study’s findings.
The BID also noted that Sunnyside residents have been calling for these types of stores too—based on a shopping survey it conducted last summer.
“Next month we are starting a campaign where we will be going out after these types of business,” said Rachel Thieme, the BID’s executive director, at the annual meeting. “The BID aims to work with brokers and owners to fill vacancies with businesses that we believe will succeed and will enhance the district.”
“The district has so much going for it already,” Thieme said after the event, “but it could really be enhanced with a better variety of retail offerings.”
Despite the plan to attract new businesses, the market research firm noted that the vacancy rate in the BID district is low. The rate was 6.5% when it conducted its study in December—which it said was lower than the 9% to 10% that has become common in many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs.
Thieme said that the study found that most people walk to the district to do their shopping and that, in part, is why the BID will be focusing heavily on improving the trees and making the sidewalks look more appealing.
Thieme said the BID plans to install tree guards throughout the district over the next few years. However, she said, the BID is looking for sponsors to help cover the cost. A tree guard costs $1,200 to put in, which includes the cost of expanding the tree beds if necessary.
Furthermore, the BID has just launched a program that will help cover the cost for those business owners who replace their solid metal gates with open grille gates. The BID will subsidize 50% of the cost, up to $1,000. The grille gates, which are 70% transparent, are deemed less susceptible to graffiti and visually more appealing.
The BID said that it plans to bring back the Taste of Sunnyside this spring and will also have its second Sunnyside Restaurant Week in the fall. It did not have any further details at this point.
Thieme said the first Sunnyside Restaurant Week was a big highlight and that the 16 restaurants that participated all said they benefited from it. “We received great feedback,” she said.
The 2013 board of directors were reelected for 2014, with John Vogt remaining as chairman. The board members all ran unopposed.