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The NY Times looks at how Astoria's Steinway Street has evolved into a magnet for big chain. The accompanying graphic shows a one block stretch complete with Gap, GapKids, Starbucks, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret - and four banks, natch! According to the Real Estate Board of NY's retail committee chairwoman Robin Abrams, the shift is occurring because chains are have either "saturated" or are "priced out" of Manhattan, and they are finding the "can do business in the boroughs." And having a big chain as a tenant is probably less of a hassle than an unknown entity for outer-boroughs landlords (not to mention a reason for them to charge more).

While businesspeople are excited about the opportunities, some are worried, such as urban planner Jeanne Giordano who tells the Times, "The tipping point is that it's happening beyond the obvious places. The boroughs are all going down like bowling pins."

"I would say a good healthy street is a combination of both. If it’s just the chains, then it’s boring. But certain chains have good basics. And it’s always nice to have the small, unique shops. The question is how long that mix holds until it goes and trips over to the other side.”

The article also brings up an interesting proposition that was passed in San Francisco last fall: San Francisco can review and restrict "formula retail" chains (read about the proposition here). While we doubt that that a proposition like that would pass in NYC, can you imagine if there was? There wouldn't be a Duane Reade or Chase Bank every block! Which could be good or bad.

Do you like having chain stores because they can be convenient and have lots more variety? Or would you rather they shove off?

Photograph of Steinway Street by spec motors on Flickr