By Barbara Blair Randall
President, Garment District Alliance
The Garment District Alliance has supported the positive development of its iconic neighborhood for more than 20 years, making investments and providing services and programs that leverage market-driven momentum, and positioning the neighborhood for continued growth.
That was never more true, or more exciting, than this past year.
Last fall, we as an organization rebranded from the Fashion Center BID to the Garment District Alliance to reflect the neighborhood’s character as both authentic New York and fast-changing. The name that the neighborhood once held has been swiftly re-adopted.
But today’s Garment District is a new Garment District. It has transformed from a manufacturing neighborhood into a vibrant, 24/7 district with boutique hotels, trendy dining and nightlife, and a world-class art scene.
Today’s Garment District boasts an explosion of and new uses. A hub for creative and tech tenants. A neighborhood buzzing with energy, attracting diverse retailers, delicious restaurants and cutting-edge businesses. It’s no wonder the district is being called the “SoHo of Midtown.”
From the roads to the rooftops, today’s Garment District is hotter than ever. Investments by premier real estate companies have transformed our office market and generated intense real estate buzz. Our 28 new hotels bring us nearly a million annual visitors. An ever-growing number of eating and drinking establishments ranges from destination dining, to gorgeous rooftop lounges, to hip coffee shops and specialty retail. We have artists, galleries and theaters. The Garment District Plazas have become an urban oasis, where tenants and visitors enjoy public art and people-watching.
In other words, this is not your grandfather’s Garment District.
Today, the Garment District is a magnet for tech, advertising, media, information and other creative companies, proving that “if you build it, they will come.” We have hundreds of those uses here now.
The largest, Interpublic, one of the world’s Big Four advertising and marketing agencies, made headlines this year when they took an unprecedented 87,000 sq. ft. in 1400 Broadway. That building, along with 1350 and 1359 Broadway saw millions invested by the Empire State Realty Trust, resulting in a complete modernization of those properties.
Savanna has also spent millions on an extensive capital improvement program and the renovation of 1375 Broadway. Callahan Capital Partners’ 1411 Broadway is currently undergoing a massive upgrade and a redesign of their public plazas that will have a dramatic impact on the street, and 1407 is being completely transformed into a stunning, modern office building by The Lightstone Group.
But investment hasn’t been limited to the avenues. Many of our side street loft buildings have stunning new lobbies, upgraded elevators and beautiful new facades.
And there is more on the horizon. Hines is in development on 7 Bryant Park, a new 470,000 square foot office building. Next month we will welcome our newest luxury boutique hotel, the Archer, that will feature a highly anticipated David Burke restaurant named Fabrick, a nod to the historical roots of the district. A Dream Hotel will be built on the former Parson’s site on Seventh Avenue, and Whole Foods will be coming to 40th Street and Sixth Avenue.
With all this capital investment, it’s no wonder our ground floor has taken off, too.
The Garment District saw 37 new retailers this year, including destination dining like Parker & Quinn in the new Refinery Hotel, the very chic Café Grumpy, the trendsetting Wasabi with its grab-and-go sushi, the former speak-easy turned Garment District hot spot The Hudson Bond, and the beer lover’s District Tap House. The list goes on and on, as these and many others have joined the ranks of now favorites like Tir na nOg, Desmond’s, Delmonico’s, Casa Nonna and boutique shops like Kees Chocolates and MacarOn.
And the rooftops of Garment District are becoming just as chic as the ground floor. With the opening of The Skylark on 39th Street and The Monarch on 35th Street, we now have five rooftop bars with magnificent views of NYC, not to be missed.
As you can see, it’s been an exciting year for the district – and an exciting, busy year for us at the Garment District Alliance. We continue to work with our community and government partners to support the neighborhood’s growth and promote the district to visitors, tenants and the real estate community.
From enhancing the pedestrian experience with LED security light fixtures, to upgrading our plazas with expanded space and functionality, the impact of our streetscape projects has been dramatic.
To support the needs of our millions of visitors, the Alliance also agreed to pilot the City’s new wayfinding program. And of course, supporting all we do are our core services of sanitation and public safety.
The Alliance looks to the coming year as an opportunity to highlight the many new developments, businesses and retail in the district. We also have some very exciting projects in the works.
In everything we do, we work with our partners to make this vibrant district a neighborhood for everyone. And today’s Garment District is just that.