Gentrification on the Fulton Mall, Continued

December 11 2013

As change has come to the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn, I had been thinking that the retail environment on the Mall was going to be a mirror shopping experience to 86th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. It turns out that while there are many of the same retailers, the stores that are opening on the Mall are positioned as “Outlet Stores” rather than being presented as primary retail shops. For starters, there is the American Eagle Outlet and the Gap Factory Store. Sephora, who had been touted as a high-end retail chain that would anchor the Mall, bring in higher-end traffic, and act as a magnet for Brooklyn moms who want to try on their lipstick but have no time to go to Manhattan to shop, ended up opening in a historic building with double frontage on Court Street that is a few minute walk from the Mall. They are disassociated from the Mall experience.

It’s interesting to see that although there is a tremendous amount of real estate development adjoining the mall, the well-heeled people who will be buying and renting coops and renting glossy office space will still not be well-served by this new shopping experience. There is a disconnect. The stores are here, but not even the full middle-class version, so there is the sense of trying to straddle two worlds, and being committed to neither. The Mall is currently serving the same public as before – the city office workers and small business people that still throng the streets, either avoiding or engaging with the guys hawking cell phone covers and six gold teeth for $139.

It may that it is too soon to tell where the Mall is going, but it is clear that a commitment needs to be made to higher-level chains, good food, cafes, and a few little boutiques and shops like those that anchor 5th Avenue in Park Slope. It’s a brand moment at the Mall. I’m interested to see how it plays out.

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