MTA seeks ‘master’ vendor for retail development at Grand Central Madison

Grand Central Madison station concourse
Grand Central Madison’s lower-level concourse.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

The MTA is seeking a master vendor to manage retail at Grand Central Madison — hoping to turn the new East Side Long Island Rail Road terminal into a destination shopping hub for Midtown residents and workers.

Grand Central Madison opened for full LIRR service last year, but those strolling through the terminal are sure to notice the conspicuous lack of retail spaces, especially as compared to Grand Central’s Metro-North space upstairs.

Now, the MTA is seeking a “master lessor” to manage 25,000 square feet of retail space across 32 units in the terminal 17 stories below Manhattan.

“We really want to increase the convenience and excitement of this facility with innovative shops, restaurants, and brands, like we’ve been pretty successful with upstairs,” said MTA Chair Janno Lieber on Tuesday. “Now that GCM is open and successful, we need help turning it into the vibrant destination that it was always meant to be.”

The agency has put out a request for proposals (RFP), open through June, for companies interested in serving as the main vendor in charge of leasing out retail outlets at the station.

Lieber said the agency is looking for a dynamic mix of retail tenants as seen upstairs in the Metro-North space, where riders can peruse the latest Apple Watch, buy leggings at Lululemon, roquefort at Murray’s Cheese, and pierogis at Veselka, before nabbing a Diet Coke at Hudson News as they rush to their train.

“I think you’ve got something that is a big iconic retailer, Apple, but you’ve also got basic everyday stuff,” said Lieber. “You can buy a great bagel at Zaro’s. You can get great eyeglass frames, you can go to a Lululemon, but you can also just deal with the basic stuff that you might in a drug store like a Walgreens or a Duane Reade or one of those. So I think what we’re looking for is a mix that’s very similar to Grand Central.”

Not of interest to the MTA is a luxurious situation similar to the Port Authority’s Oculus, where riders can buy a “$10,000 watch on their way to and from getting their salad,” Lieber said.

Transit officials hope that Grand Central Madison will not just be a transit hub but also a place where local residents and office drones come for lunch or shopping.

“It’s really great to have these iconic places not just be transit stations where people run in and out,” Lieber noted, “but where there is retail that makes it more interesting and attractive.”

The MTA has already secured its first retail lease in the space, with the Penn Station-area oyster bar Tracks set to open its second location in Grand Central Madison later this year. The beloved shucking shack was long a fixture of Penn Station but was forced to move outside the terminal in 2019 amid reconstruction of the station’s LIRR concourse.

MTA officials expect a smattering of stores to arrive at the terminal by 2025, with full leasing completed by 2026.

Grand Central Madison opened last year and became the only transit center in the city connecting the LIRR, Metro-North, and the subway. After an infamously long and expensive period of planning and construction, the terminal now serves upwards of 66,000 riders on weekdays.