By  on January 13, 2005

NEW YORK — With a mass of boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and more hair salons than any neighborhood truly needs, the Meatpacking District is becoming a full-service hub for the acutely fashion conscious.

Model agencies, showrooms, stylists, photo studios and public relations agencies have also taken roost. All this is happening against a backdrop of rapid development and community opposition, the approval of the long-awaited High Line project and the scourge of any neighborhood-in-transition: rising rents. The going rates are now $65 to $125 a square foot for retail space and $25 to $55 a square foot for office and showroom space.

Although some observers say the Meatpacking District’s days as an “It” neighborhood might be numbered as a result, that hasn’t stopped a throng of fashion entrepreneurs from descending on the neighborhood.

Massimo Bizzocchi, president of the powerhouse luxury haberdashery Kiton, in mid-February will open a 2,000-square-foot self-named store at 433 West 14th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Besides Kiton, Bizzocchi will sell Lorenzini, Avon Celli, Jeckerson jeans, Postcard ski and sportswear, Tramontano handbags and shoes and his own signature collection.

Kiton, which has a store at 4 East 54th Street, is trying to reach a youthful customer. “We feel the Meatpacking District is where the energy is,” said Daniel Raymont, sales manager. “We’re focussing on a fashion-forward customer. It’s a very sexy area.”

Other believers include Diane von Furstenberg, who is moving her store, studio and offices to West 14th Street, and Andrew Rosen, chairman of Theory, who will open offices, a showroom and large store at 40 Gansevoort Street. Stefani Greenfield and Uzi Ben-Abraham of Scoop recently expanded their franchise on Washington Street and designer Charles Nolan opened a boutique on the corner of Hudson and Gansevoort Streets. And first-time retailer Karine Bellil on Friday will open B8 Couture at 27 Little West 12th Street. (See story, this page).

“It’s a small area with limited amounts of space,” said Richard Meilman, whose family controls 170,000 square feet of retail and commercial loft office space along West 14th Street. The Meilmans’ tenants include Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, an upcoming Puma Black Station, the footwear company’s first high-end boutique, and The Jeans Shop, which opened eight months ago and promises to spawn additional locations.With several showrooms, 416 West 13th Street is shaping up to be downtown’s answer to 550 Seventh Avenue. Scaola Sartoriale, Tani Keller, Joseph Mimran, Chrissa Pheodore, Iisli and PhB, a fashion rep, have opened offices and/or showrooms within the last two years. Iisli designers Sisi and Nelson Li are moving their residence to the Meatpacking District with an eye on opening a store there. Fusion Model Management is at 33 Little West 12th Street and the Michael Flutie Organization, a talent brand management firm, is at 17 Little West 12th Street.

The style-oriented building at 416 West 13th Street has 35,000 square feet of retail area   divided into five spaces. Some of the shops in the building have their own addresses on Little West 12th Street. Stylist Michael Angelo in February is opening the Wonderland Beauty Parlor with fantasy decor such as an underwater mermaid shampoo area. PN2 NYC, billed as a center for the arts supported by a hair salon, is bowing in the summer in the same building. Matt Cohen, a broker at the Lansco Corp., represented the landlord in the transactions.

Other hairstylists in the neighborhood include Orlando Pita, Bumble and bumble and Sally Hershberger. In addition, Blow, a blow-drying studio, has signed a lease on West 14th Street.

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