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World Financial Center Renovation Ousts Popular Shops and Restaurants

By Julie Shapiro | October 31, 2011 9:12pm

BATTERY PARK CITY — A row of popular stores and restaurants at the World Financial Center closed their doors this week to make way for renovations at the office complex.

All of the businesses on the corridor just south of the Winter Garden, including SouthWest NY, Boomerang Toys and Urban Athletics, had to shut down by Monday, World Financial Center owner Brookfield Properties said.

On Nov. 7, Brookfield is expected to begin construction on a two-year, $250 million redevelopment that will create a 25,000-square-foot fresh food marketplace and aims to draw 40 new high-fashion retailers.

Many of the ousted businesses had deep roots in the World Financial Center, including SouthWest NY, a restaurant that opened in 1999 and hung on during the difficult years after 9/11.

Staff and regulars lifted their glasses to SouthWest at a farewell celebration last Thursday, said Richard Cohn, co-owner of the restaurant.

"We wanted to go out on a high note," Cohn said.

But it won't be goodbye for long.

SouthWest NY will still offer its menu of contemporary Mexican-American cuisine for delivery daily from 5 p.m. to midnight by temporarily sharing the kitchens of other Merchants Hospitality restaurants in lower Manhattan, Cohn said.

And SouthWest NY will reopen in early 2012 in the former Gate House space at South End Avenue and Albany Street, just a block away from its old location.

Since the restaurant's new home will be larger than the World Financial Center space, Merchants Hospitality will also open a high-end lounge there, called Black Hound, Cohn said.

Some of the businesses that were forced to close were able to relocate within the World Financial Center, including Hallmark and Cobbler Express, but others, like Boomerang Toys and Urban Athletics, will have to rely on their other locations for revenue.

Karen Barwick, the owner of Boomerang Toys and a Battery Park City resident, gathered more than 300 signatures on a petition over the summer asking Brookfield to let her stay in the World Financial Center, but the store served its last customer on Sunday. It still has outposts in TriBeCa and Staten Island.

"We really want to stay here," Barwick said in July. "So many customers stop me on the street and say they can't believe we're leaving."