Much has been made about the transformation of the Fulton Street Mall into a luxury retail corridor to meet the needs of a changing residential profile in the area. Clearly, with the advent of nearly 5,000 new market-rate and luxury residences coming on-line in the surrounding blocks, change for the better is an obvious and welcome outcome.
More upscale retailers are already opening along the newly renovated mall, but don’t hold your breath for a Tiffany’s unit or the next Saks Fifth Avenue. Rather the retailers opening their doors in the Fulton Mall are in the discounter and cheap chic categories, and currently include H&M, Aeropostale and the Filene’s Basement/SYMS hybrid.
More realistically, Fulton Mall has begun to mirror such successful corridors as West 34th Street and East 14th Street/Union Square. You could also say it’s Brooklyn’s answer to Fordham Road. Overall, the new activity is a very good sign for both the mall businesses and other local retailers, who benefit from a more vibrant consumer profile in the immediate area. No doubt, the next step will be the opening of restaurants to provide yet another amenity. The strip could eventually become the next Smith Street, populated by hip dining destinations that support trend-seeking shoppers.
The concentration of the youth-market stores will easily attract buyers from the entire borough. Add to the mix the proximity to Metrotech Center and the Atlantic Yards, and a constant flow of foot traffic in the pedestrian mall is almost a guarantee.
Experienced luxury developers, such as the Laboz family of United American Land, who are better associated with such luxury developments as Soho Mews, are adding cachet to the area, too. Their two-building project at the gateway of the mall is the new home of a 30,000-square-foot H&M.
There’s no question that good things are happening in Downtown Brooklyn. But don’t count on a Henri Bendel opening down the street from H&M, as it is on the Fifth Avenue Gold Coast. That particular range of retail cannot be supported in Downtown Brooklyn at this juncture. Nor has it historically been the case. Even in the early days of the mall, Fulton Street was home to mid-priced department stores, such as May’s and E.J. Korvette. The most upscale department store in those early days was Martin’s and Abraham & Straus.
Sadly, for nearly two decades, their successors were 99-cent stores and sporting goods emporiums, bolstered only by a Macy’s unit.
The changing population of the neighborhood is already attracting new retail ventures and reinforcing the mall as an important asset to the borough once again. But the customer base for luxury is not shopping in Downtown Brooklyn when it has Soho, Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue.
And frankly, who cares? The new direction of the Fulton Street retail corridor doesn’t have to be dramatic to attract the right retailers for enthusiastic consumers.
Faith Hope Consolo is chairwoman of the Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Retail Group.