Once New York’s premier luxury shopping destination, NYC's Union Square transformed into a "bargain basement" retail district in the mid-1970's, whose business image was identified with the low-cost goods on display in a succession of stores along 14th Street. In an effort to turnaround their neighborhood, community stakeholders formed the Union Square Partnership in the 1990's, including the city's oldest business improvement district.
In 2007, new leadership was brought on board to reinvigorate the Partnership. In addition to restoring the district as a shopping and entertainment destination, emphasis was placed on completing the 20-year-long renovation of Union Square Park, including a controversial proposal to renovate the Pavilion for use as a restaurant.
The Partnership’s new leadership needed to protect the brand of the district and the organization, while simultaneously mitigating negative issues related to the redevelopment and renovation of the park’s north end.
The most recent challenge has been to stem the affects of the recession, not letting the district slide back to a less desirable shopping venue.
Marino has focused on three primary areas: development/infrastructure, events and business expansion. Specific efforts include managing media and community relations around the renovation of Union Square Park’s north end; creating attention for the Partnership’s “clean & safe” services; annual planting/beautification investments; and promoting the free WiFi service in the park. Marino has also ensured that the Partnership’s events are well promoted and highly publicized, including Summer in the Square, Harvest in the Square, community volunteer days, and the historic walking tour of the district.
A special effort was made to highlight the area’s retail vibrancy – even now as other areas of Manhattan are suffering from retail vacancies.
The constant coverage of Union Square Park's amenities and the area's booming commercial activity in the media has helped the Union Square Partnership maintain retail growth – such as the first ever 24-hour Best Buy and the first Nordstrom Rack in New York City – and has guarded against the worst of the economic downturn. Placement includes the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Crain’s New York Business, New York Magazine and many other print and electronic outlets. Marino has also helped position the Partnership's annual fundraiser, “Harvest in the Square,” as one of the city’s premier food and wine-tasting benefits, with more than 50 area restaurants participating.
Marino has assisted in taking Union Square "from needle park to Nordstrom," and today, the district has a retail vacancy rate less than three percent.