Times Square blight becomes colorful shop

By Jovana Rizzo | May 01, 2009 12:48PM

alternate textSave Fashion at the Port Authority

An empty ground-floor space in the Port Authority Bus Terminal has been transformed into a pop-up shop filled with young designers’ clothes at discount prices. 

For the past five years the space, which on Eighth Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets, has been unoccupied. Vornado Realty Trust is planning to build an office tower on top of the retail space, although there is no time line for the project yet.

“It was so horrible looking,” Barbara Blair Randall, president of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, said at a launch party for the pop-up shop last night. “All the windows were covered in brown paper. It wasn’t a nice sight for pedestrians.”

To spruce up Eighth Avenue, the BID and the Times Square Alliance — which promotes economic development and public improvements in Times Square —  approached the Port Authority to Turn The Space Into A Temporary Place to support young designers and artists, combining the spirits of the Garment District south of the Port Authority and theater scene to the north.

Port Authority gave the groups a six-month lease at a $1 a month rent, but the alliance and the BID are responsible for the pop-up’s up-keep.

“We thought it was a great idea,” said Stephen Napolitano, general manager of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Lincoln Tunnel, noting that he had to give the groups a short-term lease because of the planned development, but the lease could be extended if the Port Authority doesn’t have a use for the space at the end of the six months.

The pop-up shop, called Save Fashion, opens to the public today and will have different designers’ duds for the next four weeks. On the racks in the space this week are clothes by Charlotte Ronson, Rachel Comey and Alice Ritter, among many others, but the stock will change each week. Fashion Web site Refinery29.com brought in the designers and created the Save Fashion concept.

“A lot of designers are getting stuck with overstock because stores are closing,” said Piera Gelardi, style and art director of Refinery29.com, adding that selling clothes in the Port Authority space is a good way for the designers to make some extra money, especially because of the “insane foot traffic” in the area.

Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said at the end of the four weeks, they might do another fashion pop-up in the space with Refinery 29.com, and they are also thinking about using the space for art shows.

“It’s changing people’s perception of Eighth Avenue,” Tompkins said. “There’s literally no place to shop in the neighborhood. The Port Authority has enormous pedestrian traffic, but not retail servicing the residential, office and theater populations in the neighborhood.”