Window Shopping in San Francisco’s Union Square

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December 12, 2016

By: Jamie Kendall, JLL Retail

On November 17, I chaired and hosted a tour of Union Square as part of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) NextGen program. Myself, my colleague Ross WhiteAmber Wright of ROIC, and several other ICSC NextGen committee members (including about 60 other retail professionals) toured 10 buildings, each of which could be viewed as exemplifying a key trend with impact on the broader retail market in and around Union Square.

Competition for retail space

There’s a tremendous competition for retail space in the Square today.  As two of our recent retail thought leadership pieces – Destination Retail 2016 and Flagship Confidential – point out, San Francisco is a highly popular market for retailers.  The city is ranked 25th in the Top 50 cities in the world for attractiveness to cross border retailers, on par with Chicago and ahead of Washington DC, Boston, Dallas and Honolulu as well as a number of major European and Asian cities.  Hermes, Dior, and Gucci are just three of the global brands with stores in the Square.  The most recent tenant to open a store in the area:  Apple.

Rents reach all time highs

The hefty appetite for space is pushing rents into stratospheric territory with some spots commanding $1,000 per square foot.  This is also having an effect on building values.  120 Stockton – the Macy’s Men’s store just sold for $1,046 per square foot.  360 Post Street, home of Tiffany & Co., recently sold for $135 million, or more than six times what it last sold for in 1995. The map below was created for the walking tour which lists only a small portion of the market information and stats shared on tour.

Click map below to enlarge


Click map below to enlarge


Attracting national and global investors

Another building we toured, 240 Stockton, was acquired this past September by Grosvenor Americas, and many members of the local Grosvenor team joined us on the tour to talk about their buildings.  They were also one of the event sponsors.  Grosvenor Americas, part of the London-based Grosvenor Group, know a little about “High Street” retail.  The company has long invested in London’s major upscale shopping districts, especially within its long-held Belgravia estate.  The company’s North American arm owns three other Union Square buildings – 180, 185 and 251 Post Street – as well as assets on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and North Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s ‘Magnificent Mile.’

Grosvenor isn’t the only cross-border investor with a good eye for Union Square retail assets.  Spanish mogul Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Inditex fashion company behind brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti, is the second richest man in the world and used his real estate investment vehicle Ponte Gadea to recently acquire 360 Post Street, the famed “Tiffany & Co. Building.”

Union Square’s rise as an internationally-recognized shopping district is also attracting capital from within the United States.  Morgan Stanley acquired the Macy’s Men’s store and several New York developers are active in the area.

Trends, tech and transit

The group that toured with us had plenty of questions.  Most wanted to know what the current rent comps were, how high asking rents had risen in this cycle, what space was available and what prices buildings were trading for.  But they also wanted to know about current retail trends, what impact the tech sector was having on the availability and price of retail space in the Union Square market and how long the Central Subway construction project might affect traffic flows in the area.

My major takeaway from the event was that there is no shortage of interest in Union Square as a retail focal point. While no one has a crystal ball that can look into the future of the city’s major retail market, I’d say that the future looks reasonably bright.

Read more about Union Square and San Francisco Bay Area retail in these two recent reports – Destination Retail 2016 and Flagship Confidential.

Find a location for your retail store in San Francisco here.

About the author:

kendall_jamie_8098_v2Jamie Kendall concretized the retail brokerage arm at JLL by executing high-end urban/high-street retail leasing deals in San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area for both domestic and international clients–including work on both trophy buildings and flagship stores. She successfully represents high-profile premium and luxury brands on their flagship deals, efficiently securing sites on their behalf. 

Contact Jamie directly by phone at +1 (415) 395-7286 or via email at






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