Kenneth Park Architects | Spotlight on Meatpacking
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10 Mar Spotlight on Meatpacking

In a survey of the great cyclical turnovers that every New York City neighborhood experiences, the Meatpacking District occupies a rather special place. In a city where every neighborhood is tightly bound to history, the Meatpacking’s turn from a symbol of industry past to an established cultural force is not so much atypical, but rather all the more important because it is so archetypical.

In the next installation of “Spotlight On,” we look into the newest iteration of the neighborhood, one marked by the looming presence of the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum, the High Line, and increasingly a landscape of star-architect designed structures and global technology behemoths. In addition, just a few blocks upriver, the futuristic but controversial Pier 55 is mired in litigation that threatens to halt or postpone a 2016 construction start date. All of this marks the latest evolution of the neighborhood and while the ‘hood may not have been what it was before for a long time now, it certainly was not this. Specifically, we’ll look into the way(s) that retail and other commercial development fit into the new framework.

A Very Recent Retail History

Compared to this iteration of the neighborhood as a “starchitecture” playground, the ups and downs and fluctuations of the neighborhood in regard to retail and commercial activity may seem less exciting. But after a day at the museum, it is the surrounding commercial landscape that constitutes the primary experience for tourists and residents alike. The recent history of the area begins with multi-brand shop Jeffrey, which first opened in 1998, bringing along with it a flow of other high-end luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. This newly fashionable Meatpacking in turn quickened the overall pace of commercial development, whereupon a host of restaurants, bars and “main street” retailers descended upon the neighborhood. The explosion in rent and accompanying loss of prestige –at least the sort that trades on exclusivity in terms of who’s in the know– would lead to the exit of some of these luxury brands, bringing an odd moment of open and available storefronts in the neighborhood’s recent history.

The Post-Whitney Moment

The turning point in the Meatpacking’s identity as a cultural force du jour begins roughly with the completion of phase 1 of the High Line in 2009. The upswing in foot traffic has continued with sizable additions to the neighborhood such as the continual redevelopment of Chelsea Market, the presence of national retailers, boutique hotels like the Soho House New York or the Standard, and most recently, the new Whitney Museum. Attracted to the abundant offerings of the neighborhood, hardline and technology companies like Lexus, Samsung, Apple and Google are setting up shop, offices, and sometimes both. To put this in perspective, the Meatpacking BID has estimated that approximately 600,000 SF of commercial space will open in the next 5 years, with 50% dedicated to offices. What does this mean for retail? Well, just that everyone, from Louis Vuitton to H&M and Zara, are looking for space in a neighborhood that sees foot traffic from both nearby office workers and an estimated six million annual tourists. Rents are estimated to be about $350-$750/SF, in contrast to the less than $100/SF 10 years ago. The Meatpacking is now a neighborhood that’s seeing a turnover rate of 1.8%, in comparison with a city wide level of 9%.

The Retail Concepts We’re Most Excited About

The retail landscape that’s emerged is one that’s making room for everyone. Upmarket luxury brands are crowding the brick-paved lanes south of 14th Street, leaving the area surrounding 14th street to large format chain retailers. Although the combination of exclusive luxury boutiques and giant flagships is in and of itself an exciting combination, the Meatpacking District has more to offer than a pure array of choice. In addition, the neighborhood will be home to an array of very exciting retail concepts, a few of which we’ve highlighted below.

1/ Image by Restoration Hardware, 2/ Image by Alexander Severin & Morris Adjmi Architects, 3/ Image by Lexus

1/ Image by Restoration Hardware, 2/ Image by Alexander Severin & Morris Adjmi Architects, 3/ Image by Lexus

Restoration Hardware

The home furnishing giant is currently planning not just one, but two, showrooms of sorts for the Meatpacking District. In addition to a mammoth 70,000 SF flagship at 9-19 Ninth Avenue, Restoration Hardware is dipping its toes into the boutique hotel market with a planned 25,000 SF hotel on 55 Gansevoort Street, replete with a ground floor restaurant. So now, you can really test out that bed before you buy–and then get breakfast afterwards.

Samsung 837

Known as Samsung 837, the 40,000 SF retail store-that’s-not-a-store is a global showroom for all things Samsung. There are no shelves full of merchandise in sight, but rather the space features a 90-seat theater, a three-story digital screen, an art gallery and studio as well as a café and demo kitchen. With shopping out of the way, Samsung will use this massive space to host everything from film screenings to dance parties to book launches. All of this is designed to convince you to not not buy Samsung products, which is why there will be staff on hand to help out with buying such items online.

Intersect by Lexus

With locations in Tokyo and Dubai, the Intersect by Lexus retail concept is a true multi hyphenate for this day and age.  Part car showroom, art gallery, café, and bistro, the concept is the furthest  idea away from the standard car-to-car showroom. While the lease for 16,500 SF of space at 412 W. 14th Street has been old news for a while, there’s been no updates on an opening date yet.

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