FLATIRON — Over the past several months, the Flatiron District has reeled in national and international chains looking to create retail stores with a bit of a twist.
A Brooks Brothers store slated to open at Broadway and East 20th Street in the fall will nix their shirt-and-tie staples and instead focus on slim-fitting sportswear targeted toward college students and young professionals. The store will also feature vintage video games and free WiFi, Racked NY reported.
A flagship Madewell store opened in April of this year at Fifth Avenue and East 19th Street. In addition to filling racks with items from its own clothing line, the store has erected a “hometown heroes” pop-up shop inside its new space that sells items from independent stores around the city, as well as from designers based in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
New Balance recently unveiled its first North American “experience” store in the Flatiron area. Inside, the store’s designers built an indoor track and a shoe assembly area that allows customers to watch staffers put together New Balance sneakers. Patrons can even have shoes made while they wait.
Brooks Brothers and Madewell did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and when New Balance opened its experience store, company representatives said the history of the area was a significant factor in their decision to open there.
But Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District, suggested there might be more to the trend.
For one, the Flatiron District has become well-known as a tech industry hub in New York, with new companies bringing in young, creative employees.
“It is really kind of hip,” Brown said. “We have a lot of young start-up companies.”
The residential market has been growing as well, Brown said.
According to the Flatiron BID’s 2011 annual report, nearly 2 million square feet of space in the district has been created for or converted to residential use since 2006.
Rental rates for retail space in the area are also relatively low, ranging from an average of $67 per square foot for a side street location to about $143 per square foot for a spot on 23rd Street, according to the annual report.
Prices in nearby Union Square, meanwhile, average about $325 to $450 per square foot, the report stated.
Each of these concept stores occupies anywhere from 3,500 to 6,500 square feet.
The arrival of Mario Batali’s Eataly is playing a big role in increasing the neighborhood’s popularity, with crowds of tourists and locals alike swarming around the massive, 50,000-square-foot space, Brown said.
Also contributing to the crowds is the seemingly endless stream of Shake Shack devotees lining up in Madison Square Park. And just across the street, Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen, another well-known burger joint, is slated to open soon, Brown said.
“There’s just so much traffic in the area now,” she added. “And I mean that in a good way.”
At least one new retailer is playing up that popularity. Marimekko, a Finnish textile and clothing design company, is opening a flagship store near Fifth Avenue and Broadway in October. In a press release announcing the new 3,700-square-foot location, the company bragged about its new address as “one of the busiest blocks in Manhattan’s Flatiron District…which enjoys growing popularity as a shopping area for local people.”