Madison Avenue is missing the Whitney

Retailers hoping new Apple store will bring foot traffic to the area
May 28, 2015 08:00AM

Times they are a-changin’ on the Upper East Side’s Madison Avenue, which has been without the Whitney since its closing in October. Foot traffic has dropped by roughly 200,000 people over the last seven months.

Shop owners are banking on several slated openings to bring the pedestrians back. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will start hosting exhibitions in the Whitney’s former building starting next spring — still about 10 months away.

“When you’re busy during lunch, you don’t notice, but later in the afternoon, you really miss that extra crowd,” John Catechis, a manager at 3 Guys Restaurant, which sits at Madison Avenue and East 76th Street, told Crain’s.

An Apple store is also set to open across the avenue — an anchor that could really make a difference for the neighborhood. It should draw more traffic than its predecessor, Italian luxury retailer VBH.

This example reflects a shift in the overall image of the area, which used to be known for its high-end shopping but has been fading recently in the face of competition from neighborhoods like Soho.

And while many luxury retailers still maintain locations there, some of them are global brands that are simply there for the status and are actually losing money on the area rents.

“It’s the death of a neighborhood,” said Joseph Coplin, an owner of Antiquarium Fine Ancient Arts Gallery, which has been in the area since 1979. “You’ll see these same stores on New Bond Street in London and Rue de Rivoli in Paris.”

The new Whitney Museum opened in the Meatpacking District on May 1. [Crain’s] — Tess Hofmann