Once known as the “lighting district,” the stretch of Bowery south of Houston Street is losing the shops that contibruted to that nickname. The Wall Street Journal reported that since 2000 the area has dropped one-third of its light fixture businesses — bringing the total to 20, and two more are set to close — while rents have more than doubled from between $30 to $50 per square foot to about $100 in 2011.
Like similar “districts” on the Lower East Side, including the restaurant supply businesses that lined the sidewalks between East Houston and Delancey streets, glassy new development has pushed out iconic shopping areas. And at the market’s peak many developers simply made offers to acquire real estate that lighting store owners couldn’t refuse. Kerri Culhane, an architectural historian, said more new buildings have arisen in the last decade than in any other decade in the Bowery’s history. More than 10 percent of the 241 buildings are new construction.
The area’s business improvement district notes that changing shopping habits, including the proliferation of online shopping and large retailers like Home Depot, are contributing to the downfall. [WSJ]