NEW YORK — At The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, the major urban mall that’s had its share of challenges, the mix is evolving.
Louis Vuitton has returned to the mall with a freestanding store that opened Thursday, after previously operating a shop inside the Neiman Marcus store, which closed during the fall of 2020.
Several restaurants and services are on their way, and Related Cos., the developer of Hudson Yards, is expected to soon reveal that an office tenant will move into the former Neiman’s space. “We’re close to a deal,” Kimberly Pohlen, senior vice president of leasing for the center, told WWD, during an interview on how Hudson Yards is changing, along with her colleague Webber Hudson, executive vice president of Related.
The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, anchoring the massive Hudson Yards mixed-use complex on Manhattan’s West Side, had a grand slam opening in March 2019 with crowds pouring in, out of a sense of awe and curiosity.
A year later, COVID-19 hit. Office workers, tourists and shoppers faded from the scene, and there was a string of retail and restaurant departures, notably the Dallas-based Neiman’s luxury department store; Forty Five Ten, another retailer from Dallas that had a grouping of small shops for fashion, florals, tabletop, art, gifts and a tea room, and the Citarella gourmet market.
The Vessel, a 15-story honeycomb-shaped sculpture to gaze at and ascend 154 interconnected flights of stairs, remains « temporarily closed, » according to Hudson Yard officials. It has been the scene of four suicides but had been a major draw to the complex.
Now it appears the mall is adopting a broader appeal, widening its price range by adding new retailers and food and beverage offerings, in several cases filling vacated space, all the while maintaining a significant luxury component, but with less dependence on it. There is 390,000 square feet of gross leasable space for retail and restaurants, a figure that excludes the former Neiman’s as well as the Tak Room and Kawi restaurants and other businesses that are closed and are being converted to offices.
“Our F&B offer is becoming more accessible, more democratic. We will have a much better offering of midpriced food and beverage,” said Hudson. “It’s about figuring out who our customer is. Hudson Yards is not just a luxury center. We’ve got to think of more than just luxury — and we do have the luxury offer. Now we will continue to build into bridge and contemporary offerings.”
The former three-level, 180,000-square-foot Neiman’s in the mall did house a shop for Chanel, which could one day return to Hudson Yards as well, but nothing is imminent. “We’ve been in on-and-off talks with Chanel,” Pohlen said.
« There’s plenty of interest among luxury players. We just don’t have the space now,” Hudson added. With the addition of Vuitton, “Our ground floor is fully leased.”
Elsewhere around the mall, there is space for five to 10 additional retailers, depending on how the available square footage gets allocated, though a luxuryer would want to be on the ground floor.
According to Hudson, the mall is 92 percent leased.
“Generally, the luxury tenants are producing twice as much volume on a same-time basis than in 2019,” said Hudson. COVID-19 curtailed the operating hours at many retailers.
He acknowledged that the center was under-assorted in food and beverage, and lacked enough quick service, grab and go, and healthy and organic food offerings. “We have been doubling up on quick service. Four new leases were signed. The fourth floor is becoming an incredible food designation with unique names.”
Soon to open: Kamasu by Kisaki, an omakase experience from chef Edgar Valerio and executive chef Mark Garcia; Ana Wine; Fellow Barber; Calzedonia, an Italian company specializing in bathing suits, tights, and leggings, and Intimissimi, an Italian clothing label owned by Calzedonia.
Food and beverage openings in the past 12 months included Jibs; Magnolia Bakery; the Ana Bar and Eatery; Naked Tomato; Ladureé, and Peakaboo.
Retail shops opened in the past year include Monica Rich Kosann, Venus et Fleur, Taft, Le Bella & Co., Levi’s, Messika, Marli and Herman Miller.
The Vuitton shop is located on the first floor of The Shops at Hudson Yards, between Stuart Weitzman and Patek Philippe, and across the corridor from Fendi and Kenzo.
Vuitton moved into the 6,500-square-foot space previously occupied by The Conservatory. Officials at Hudson Yards and Vuitton declined to confirm the square footage. The Conservatory relocated to a smaller space in the mall, across from Tiffany & Co.
The Vuitton store presents “a suite of Louis Vuitton’s métiers, including men’s and women’s accessories, fragrances, jewelry, leather goods, ready-to-wear, shoes, travel and watches,” the company said in a statement.
The store is designed with a facade of aluminum fins with a silver and rippled edge creating the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram flower — a first for the brand. It’s complemented by silver and bronze cladding.
Inside, fine art and design enliven the interior and its custom finishes.
Hanging delicately in the men’s ready-to-wear section is a wall installation of mirrored steel with a cloud-like effect by Paul Coudamy, a Paris-based interdisciplinary architect. A textile work by American artist Jen Pack, “Cleaving an Essential Wound,” adds a burst of color to the women’s shoe section.
The men’s shoe section is lined with mosaic-like enamel works by Brooklyn-based artist Christian Nguyen.
The interior décor includes many notable pieces, such as signature chairs by Italian futurist Bruno Munari and display tables by French woodworker Pierre Chapo, adding a graceful handmade element. Pieces by ceramicist Roger Capron accentuate the arrangement.
The store is merchandised with Vuitton’s men’s and women’s spring 2022 pre-collections, and new and classic styles. Several capsules will be rolled in, including Nigo and 2054, while on the women’s side featuring the spring cruise and the spring capsule Monogram Denim will be available.
In the fine jewelry, LV Volt is displayed. It’s a graphic new collection of unisex jewelry where the LV initials represent “a metaphor for movement and a symbol of energy.”
On the service side, on-site hot-stamping is offered, enabling shoppers to personalize a variety of leather goods. A full fragrance counter offering perfumes and colognes by Louis Vuitton’s master perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud completes the presentation.
Louis Vuitton operates three other free standing locations as well as three in-store shops in New York City.
Retail sources did say that Omicron reduced the number of visitors to the mall, but that recently traffic has improved. “The mall is definitely picking up, but it will take some time to recover,” said one retailer at the mall, who requested anonymity. “It hasn’t been getting as many office people back as hoped, but I imagine things are going to keep getting better when spring and summer arrive.”