Another Food Hall Coming to Lower Manhattan, Amid Signs That Community’s Appetite Is Diminishing
A new food hall is coming to a historic (and long neglected) Lower Manhattan building: the former First National City Bank branch at 415 Broadway (on the corner with Canal Street), which dates from 1927.
The building’s owner is the development firm United American Land, a company that has established a niche in Lower Manhattan real estate by acquiring and repositioning historic structures, often transforming former office buildings and warehouses into apartments or retail destinations). The landlord has partnered with impresario Michael Spalding, founder of the Mercato Fabbrica Group, which he describes as, “a culinary and lifestyle platform that is building the next generation of brands for food discovery, retail inspiration and digital shopping.” He envisions 415 Broadway, which will open later this year under the Mercato Fabbrica name, as, “an Italian-inspired culinary factory, artisanal grocer, street kitchenne, seasonal farm stand, dry goods boutique and slow coffee bar.”
Plans include three floors of groceries and restaurants, plus two basement levels of kitchens and indoor food-growing spaces, topped off by a rooftop bar and open-air cinema. This appears to mean that 415 Broadway will become another food hall, extending the retail trend that began in New York with the 1997 advent of Chelsea Market, and took Lower Manhattan by storm starting in 2012, when the vogue for dining at communal tables, while also shopping for produce and takeout, was sparked by the acclaimed All Good Things market and restaurant in Tribeca. Although that establishment garnered universal praise, this was not enough to sustain it in a sluggish economy, and it closed two years later. A few months after All Good Things shuttered, however, Hudson Eats opened at Brookfield Place in Battery Park City, along with Le District, a French-inspired marketplace and collection of restaurants. In August, 2016, the wave gathered further momentum with the debut of Eataly in the World Trade Center complex. Since then, similar emporia, such as City Acres, Canal Street Market, the Essex Street Market, and the Bowery Market have planted their flags Downtown.
Although the food hall concept originated in Europe, it has gained increasing traction with American consumers, who prize the perceived authenticity of eating and shopping in a stage-set atmosphere, along with the variety and quality offered by a marketplace that showcases independent and artisanal producers, while catering to locavores and customers seeking organic offerings.
If has also proved expedient for real estate developers, providing a ready use for large volumes of commercial space that, in an earlier era, would have been occupied by supermarkets, department stores, or big-box retailers — all of which are under siege from online shopping.
But the mania for food halls is showing signs of having crested. Market Lane, a food hall in the Oculus shopping center of the World Trade Center complex opened in 2017, but struggled to gain traction for two years, before finally closing a few weeks ago.
Other food halls have been derailed before even opening. The much-anticipated Bourdain Market, planned for Pier 57 (on the Hudson River waterfront, near West 15th Street) was in development for five years, before celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain cancelled the project in late 2017, six months before his suicide. And plans for Sevahaus, another food hall (to be located at 205 Hudson Street, in Tribeca) were dropped in 2017, before it could debut.
The trend may yet have some life in it, however. Large food halls are currently in development at Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport (where noted chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten plans a seafood-centric version of the concept for the historic Tin Building) and 28 Liberty Street in the Financial District (where the landlord promises a 35,000-square-foot food and entertainment destination).
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