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Limelight Luxury Mall Kicks Off With Reality Show Stars Attending Gala

By DNAinfo Staff on May 7, 2010 12:19pm  | Updated on May 7, 2010 12:15pm

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — Once a historic church, then a notorious nightclub, the Limelight is back — as an upscale shopping center.

The Limelight Marketplace will officially open for business Friday afternoon at 47 W. 20th St., following a launch party on Thursday that saw the likes of "Real Housewives of New York City" star-turned-Playboy-pinup Kelly Bensimon and party boy Richie Rich.

“I’ve been here forever. I was a club kid partying here and now it’s a mall,” Richie Rich said of the revamped church that was a notorious nightclub.

Church archways have been transformed into perches for store displays and a candy shop now sits where an altar had been.

Ben Ashkenazy with Rebecca Menashe.
Ben Ashkenazy with Rebecca Menashe.
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DNAinfo/Nicole Breskin

“I love this,” gushed Real Housewives of New York City Jill Zarin at the opener. “Why not bring a luxury shopping center to Manhattan?”

It may cost a pretty penny, but locals can shop for olive oils at Carter & Cavero, mini wedding cakes at the Little Candy Cake Company and luxury soaps at Caswell-Massey.

Limelight Marketplace is the brainchild of fashion retailer Jack Menashe who turned the 163-year-old venue into a three-story “festival of shops” with more than 60 vendors in the $20 million project.

“This is everything I expected and more,” said Limelight landlord Ben Ashkenazy. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think the it would look this great.”

But New Yorkers will have to hold their appetite for the most-anticipated launch in the mall — that of Grimaldi’s pizzeria.

The Brooklyn-based pizzeria, lauded by Zagat’s as “the best pizza in New York,” had been slated to open its first Manhattan branch at the market in April, but won’t be ready until at least a few more weeks, according to a spokesperson for Limelight Marketplace.

Grimaldi’s manger Gina Peluso said: “It’s just construction delays and permit issuing that we're getting under order.”

The famed pizzeria only just went for its liquor license on Wednesday at the local community board's committee meeting on Wednesday, along with gourmet goodies shop Jezalin’s and Cana Wine Bar.

Limelight Marketplace on the night of the launch.
Limelight Marketplace on the night of the launch.
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DNAinfo/Nicole Breskin

"Virtually every shop that we’ve announced is opening," said Kristin Connor, a spokesperson for the project. "Each tenant has signed on at different points throughout the past year, some as recently as last week, which is why a restaurant such as Grimaldi’s, which has a huge space and corresponding build-out — a full sit-down restaurant, compared to another smaller shop — is not opening this Friday."

Shops opening Friday include Brocade Home, LeSportsac, It's Sugar, Lulu Denim, Silly Souls, Thérapie New York and more.

Doors will be open for business at 2 p.m.