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Fashion Both High and Low Is Scrambling Back to the Meatpacking District

Alexander McQueen's Meatpacking District store, circa 2013.
Alexander McQueen's Meatpacking District store, circa 2013.

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Blame the Whitney: The Meatpacking District became a fashion hotspot in the early aughts only to be dotted with empty storefronts a decade later, but thanks to the arrival of the contemporary museum earlier this month, a venerable mix of brands are looking to get back to the neighborhood. WWD reports that everyone from Louis Vuitton and Cartier to J. Crew, H&M, and Zara are looking for leases on and around the far west end of 14th Street—even Alexander McQueen, who left in 2013, is looking to come back now.

"I've been betting that the Whitney will change the neighborhood, Joseph Sitt, chairman and CEO of real estate firm Thor Equities, told the publication. "It may take a little time for it to happen. [But] the area is great. It's hot."

While the neighborhood isn't considered as high-fashion now as it once was—though stores like Jeffrey, Diane von Furstenberg, and Scoop have prevailed, the arrival of brands like Apple and Lululemon changed the reputation—that hasn't really swayed the retail asking rents. Price per square foot currently ranges from $350 to $750, which still leaves it as one of Manhattan's more expensive neighborhoods, and those numbers will likely increase in the near future.

"The Whitney will bring some crazy numbers," said Michael Phillips of the real estate firm Jamestown, which operates Chelsea Market, adding that today's prices account for current neighborhood vacancies.

And those "crazy numbers" could prevent some from getting here in the first place. "At the end of the day, it's not just foot traffic and the demographics. There are not a lot of designers who can afford the rents," said Mazdack Rassi, founder and creative director of Milk Studios, adding: "When we were the hot new neighborhood, we had Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and other high-end fashion companies...we realized that our level is Patagonia, Levi's and Apple."

"The rents are why everyone left," Kalinsky said. "That's why I may have to leave. I doubt I'll be able to stay when my lease is up in April 2019."