The question of whether malls are in or out in Manhattan has been hotly contested since Brookfield Place, a luxury mall in downtown Manhattan, sprung up directly across from Ground Zero. Even as a Real Estate investor, I can relate to both sides of this argument, especially when bringing it down to the basic question of what exactly constitutes a mall? As Adam Bonislawski relates in his Observer article, there seems to be some question over whether or not Brookfield Place can even be categorized as such.
On the one hand, we live in a world of convenience so this just might be the obvious next step. Why make residents in TriBeCa trudge all the way up to Madison Avenue for their high-end shopping, when they could do it all in one place close to home? And while erecting the first Gucci store in America, wouldn’t it also make sense to put in a food court filled with internationally renowned cuisine within a stone’s throw perhaps, even within the very same building? After all, this is TriBeCa.
But, then again—a mall? In Manhattan? Isn’t this 2016? Maybe a mall feels a bit antiquated in the age of online shopping. One could also question, however, what makes a collection of high-end stores synonymous with suburbia? Are they really so mutually exclusive? Especially when the Blue Ribbon Sushi and Major Food Group’s PARM are a far cry from the Roy Rogers and Sbarro’s of the world. One can’t argue that from a commerce perspective, this was an extremely big move for TriBeCa. For a section of the city that used to be dead after five, it’s now part of the teeming river of diners and bar goers that bring much more attention (and revenue) to this little nook of downtown.
But even if we can agree that Brookfield Place is better than your average mall, those that oppose say it’s more than just that. Many publications contest its specific location—just a glance away from Ground Zero. In his piece on Brookfield Place in the The New York Times, Jon Caramanica calls the presence of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum so close to the mall, “a chaos of remembrance, competitive and dense,” while Bonislawski relates a trip he took to the monument after visiting Brookfield Place: “[I] watched tourists lean over the edge to better capture pictures of themselves in front of the two holes in the earth symbolizing where thousands died. All day and all night, water flows into the wounds. The city’s confessional strength is as appealing to visitors as its gaudy excess.”
So even when we get to the bottom of these questions, of whether or not Manhattan has been “suburbanized” as AM New York calls it, by this oasis of high-end retail, what we really come down to is the question of whether TriBeCa is benefited by said mall.
I guess that depends on whom you ask. An FIT student might make sacred the fact that the first America Gucci store opened on the grounds of Brookfield place, while the formerly “high-end” shoe store owner on the corner who goes out of business may disagree. But neither side will disagree that, as always with real estate, it’s all about location.