The Strange State Of New York’s Street-Level Retail Storefronts

by MR Magazine Staff

Where will we shop tomorrow? National chains contract, malls go quiet, and for more and more people “going shopping” means curling up in bed with a laptop. Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods intimates that even supermarkets may one day go the way of blacksmiths and soda fountains. In New York, national trends make the leap from the spreadsheet to the sidewalk. A recent report compiled by Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer counted 188 vacant storefronts along Broadway, one of the world’s great shopping corridors. Booms and recessions threaten street-level retail in different ways: A strong real-estate market can obliterate fragile businesses; when it falters, some landlords can make more by leaving stores empty than by lowering the rent. And yet New Yorkers sometimes seem to be swallowed up by high-gloss new malls, as if we have urgent, constant cravings for all the same consumer goods available in any major airport terminal. Underground  passageways connect the luxury bazaar in the World Trade Center Transportation Hub with its twin at Brookfield Place, which means that you can outfit yourself for a beach wedding in Bali, a meeting at Davos, and a yoga class in Costa Rica all without going anywhere at all. Buying stuff in a store may soon become an archaic activity, but in the meantime it’s still driving new development. At Hudson Yards, a pair of office towers will be yoked together by a multistory vertical mall that will make the Time Warner Center look puny. The soon-to-be-tallest building in midtown, the 1,550-foot Central Park Tower (actually on 57th Street), will perch above a giant new Nordstrom. Read more at New York Magazine.