The herd of food-festival spaces coming to Manhattan is beginning to look like a stampede. In a story first reported by Steve Cuozzo in the
New York Post, the owners of 28 Liberty Street have partnered with Legends Hospitality to create a new food hall and music venue at the based of the archetypal Modernist skyscraper once known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza.
The new facility be housed beneath the landmarked two-acre public deck that is dominated by the Jean Dubuffet sculpture “Four Trees.” The as-yet-unnamed venue will also surround the revered “Sunken Garden” — a 60-foot-wide, circular enclosure created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, that frames a bed of polished stones and a fountain.
Fosun Interational, the China-based real estate developer that bought the complex in 2013 and rebranded it as 28 Liberty, has recruited as its partner in the food hall project Legends Hospitality, a firm that provides food services at dozens of sports stadiums, convention centers, entertainment amphitheaters, universities, and tourist attractions nationwide.
Preliminary plans calls for the 35,000-square-foot food hall, which is slated to open in 2020, to include a roster of celebrity chefs, concerts by popular recording artists, and a sit-down restaurant. The facility will be designed by architect Jeffrey Beers, who reimagined the Art Deco lobby of 100 Barclay Street, when it was being transformed from the old New York Telephone Building to luxury condominiums.
Whatever alterations are eventually planned for the site will likely attract scrutiny from local preservationists, who have repeatedly cried foul when Fosun tried to alter the plaza at 28 Liberty, by installing large glass cubes — intended to create triumphal entryways into the multiple levels of subterranean space below. These windowless floors were originally used for little more than storage, but Fosun hopes to revamp them into premium retail space. This campaign has attracted Alamo Drafthouse, a national theater chain that aims to make movies fun again by providing fine food and beverages during movies (brought by waiters to cabaret-style tables positioned alongside luxury seats). That firm recently signed a lease for 40,000 square feet beneath the plaza at 28 Liberty Street.
One question mark hanging over this plan is whether Lower Manhattan is hungry for more food halls. The vogue for dining at communal tables, while also shopping for produce and takeout began in Lower Manhattan in 2012, when the acclaimed All Good Things market and restaurant opened on Franklin Street. Although the 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. These were followed in 2017 by City Acres, at 70 Pine Street, in the Financial District, and Canal Street Market, at 256 Canal Street, in Chinatown. All of outposts are part of the so-called “grocerant” trend, which offers a hybrid of grocery comestibles and restaurant fare.
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 also catering to locavores and customers seeking organic offerings.
All of which means that the new food hall at 28 Liberty will not be the last Downtown entrant in the craze. Renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is slated soon to debut a combined seafood restaurant and fish marketplace (totaling more than 40,000 square feet) in the South Street Seaport complex, now being redeveloped by the Howard Hughes Corporation.
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