Union Square isn't just for chess players and skateboarders. The intersection of Broadway and Park Avenue South on the north side, University Place and Fourth Avenue on the south, and 14th and 17th Streets running east and west has seen more than its fair share of retail changes over the past five or so years.
And recently, the non-profit Union Square Partnership reported that the neighborhood ended 2013 with one of the lowest ground-floor retail vacancies in the city—just 1.2 percent, and one of those few vacancies is the prime spot where Shoe Mania used to be. From one discount destination replacing another to the rise of health-related chains, here's a look at the changes that the area has undergone recently.
As we've seen happen in other hot neighborhoods back when they were still called "up-and-coming," Whole Foods led the way. The health-centric grocery store busted onto the scene in 2005, and if you've ever been there during lunch then you know how
nerve-wrackingly hectic popular that place is for both shoppers and diners.
Now, the area is becoming a destination for fitness and beauty. Diesel closed down toward the end of 2013 to make room for a Reebok CrossFit gym and "retail concept store," presumably to compete with the SoulCycle that opened just north of the square in 2011, that's scheduled to open sometime this spring. And earlier this month, Elizabeth Arden's The Red Door feted the opening of their hybrid beauty shop, salon, and spa at the square's northeast corner.
Image via NY Daily News
But aside from the health nuts, discount shoppers have also ruled the area for a long time. Many said a tearful goodbye to Filene's Basement in 2012 (especially brides), but it was quickly replaced with yet another discount chain—albeit it one that doesn't specialize in the high fashion hunt—Burlington Coat Factory.
If the number on the price tag is all that matters, there's the oft-claustrophobic Forever 21 that opened in 2010, or the Strawberry at the southwest corner that has somehow survived. But if the label is important, hike over to Nordstrom Rack just off the square, which also arrived that same year.
Strong holdouts include the Barnes & Noble on the square's north side. The book chain has recently shuttered several locations, including its college textbook location around the corner. Time will only tell how long it'll last.
Image via NYU
And now all eyes have turned to the remodel of what used to be Shoe Mania. Commercial real estate firms are marketing it as an ideal flagship location for a brand. Let's hope it'll be something that makes real New Yorkers want to shop there, and not another national chain.
Oh, and remember when there used to be a Virgin Megastore there? Yeah, neither do we.
· Massive Reebok CrossFit Gym Replacing Diesel Union Square [Racked NY]
· Breaking: Nordstrom Rack Signs On For Union Square [Racked NY]
· Say Sayonara to Virgin Megastore Union Square [Racked NY]