Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Falling doormen

Downtown’s cooling real estate market has resulted in plunging prices for rental units in typically strong neighborhoods, while others have remained steady and even shown growth, according to a monthly report from the Real Estate Group New York.

The October report found that one-bedroom units in doorman buildings on the Lower East Side showed a 7 percent slide from September, as well as a 5 percent drop on average for total doorman units in the neighborhood.

Doorman units in the Financial District and Battery Park City fell by just under 3 percent last month on average, while rental units in Soho decreased by about 1.3 percent.

However, non-doorman one-bedrooms are up by 5.24 percent on the Lower East Side and up by 7.44 percent in Tribeca, with the latter increase marking the greatest change since August in any Manhattan neighborhood.

Across Tribeca, rental units have increased in price by more than 3.6 percent — the same uptick seen by non-doorman rentals in the Financial District.

Further north, studio apartments in East Village non-doorman buildings are down by more than 5 percent.

Overall, the most expensive non-doorman rentals on average were in Tribeca, which also had the priciest doorman studio units. The most expensive doorman one- and two-bedroom units were in Soho.

Compared to Oct. 2007, all rental units in Manhattan dropped by an average of 3.3 percent.

Calexico doubles up

The folks behind Soho’s Calexico food cart — the popular Southwestern-style street eatery that took home top honors last month at the 2008 Vendy Awards — have doubled their presence on Prince St. after increased demand for their prodigious yet penurious-friendly fare.

After waiting times for their burritos, tacos and quesadillas had grown as long as 45 minutes, the Calexico crew decided to consolidate two carts at the corner of Wooster St. to better serve their loyal Downtown fan base. (They moved the second cart from Gramercy to their original Soho intersection after the Oct. 18 Vendy victory pushed wait times to nearly an hour.)

“A lot of customers were really gracious with waiting,” said Dave Vendley, 25, a California native who founded the truck with brothers Brian, 28, and Jesse, 40, more than two years ago. “We’re doing our best to return the favor.”

The single cart had been serving as many as 300 people during its typical four hours of afternoon operation. (For those scoring at home, that’s upwards of 100 pounds of chicken, steak and pulled pork per day.) So, the brothers doubled up as a gesture of goodwill. Now, they’re turning over orders in less than half the time they used to.

“Almost all of our business is repeat business,” added Vendley, whose day starts at 6 a.m. prepping food in an Astoria kitchen. He noted the relocation “means something to us, and it hopefully means something to them.”

Vendley spoke to Mixed Use in between taking orders on an overcast Monday afternoon, with the line stretching a dozen deep at times. So, with that kind of dedicated following, is Calexico eyeing expansion?

“We might start running late night on the Lower East Side,” he added. It’s sounds like a good idea, since they would likely find a goldmine in the post-bar crowd down there. “We’d love to have another cart out by spring,” he said.

Alliance’s retail campaign

The Alliance for Downtown New York will launch a large-scale holiday retail campaign this month to promote the area’s 1,000-plus businesses to shoppers and investors.

The $300,000 effort looks to galvanize business activity in Lower Manhattan by touting the area’s multiple retail and restaurant offerings through advertisements in traditional print media, at transportation hubs, on street furniture, and through the organization’s Web site.

Traditionally recognized as the core for the financial-services sector, Lower Manhattan has recently drawn high-end retailers such as Tiffany & Co and BMW, as well as boasting high-traffic department stores like Century 21 and J&R Electronics, said Alliance president Liz Berger.

“I think we now have a built-in base for people who live here and work here,” she added. “We’re kind of one-stop shopping.”

And while the recent economic downturn has its roots in Lower Manhattan, the area continues to grow into a destination offering “affordable luxury” with “quality at every price point,” she noted.

“I think we have to stop conflating ‘Wall St.’ as a metaphor for the financial-services area of Wall St.,” Berger said. “While it’s certainly a time of great uncertainty and tough times, people are working here, people are visiting here.”