The Limelight Reborn as a Retail Center

The Limelight, once a hopping nightclub, will become a marketplace with more than 70 shops, eateries and cafes.

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NEW YORK — The Limelight Marketplace could be one man’s brilliant idea — or misguided folly.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That man is Jack Menashe, president of Limelight Marketplace, who is overseeing the $10 million renovation designed by James Mansour. Menashe said he expects the 25,000-square-foot facility to do $50 million in sales volume in the first year. An opening is planned for March.

Built in the mid-1800s, the landmark Gothic Revival-style Episcopal Church on West 20th Street and Sixth Avenue became a nightclub in 1983. At the height of its popularity, the Limelight attracted celebrities, wannabees, club kids and young professionals. The club was repeatedly closed by police, then briefly reopened, before finally closing in 2007.

The Limelight’s next incarnation will be a marketplace with more than 70 shops, eateries and cafes, and two full-fledged restaurants.

Menashe, who owned Lounge in SoHo until it closed in January, is a retail showman. At Lounge, he sold Swarovski-encrusted hoodies and embellished jeans. There was a wall of rock ’n’ roll memorabilia and a restaurant that served food until 4 a.m.

While Lounge had a clubby atmosphere with dark walls and scuffed wood floors, Limelight Marketplace will be bright and colorful with lots of bold signage.

“I tried to make the building feel much smaller and make it feel accessible,” Menashe said. “The building is like a big old haunted house. We envision families coming and spending three to four hours here.”

But with an edgy sneaker gallery and apothecary selling cult brands, the Limelight Marketplace is geared toward savvy shoppers. “Retail became very boring,” Menashe said. “We’re trying to make this fun.”

Standing on the second floor amid and the hum of construction work, Menashe said, “I was looking for an opportunity to do something like this. This is a very complicated building. People said I was crazy.”

Below, the Street of Shops will have a black-and-white-checked floor and different style facade for each shop. “We want really established companies,” Menashe said, “although some will be new to Manhattan.” So far, leases have been executed by Caswell Massey; Sabon; BR Cohn, wine and olive oil; Hunter Boots; It’s Sugar; J. Sisters Brazilian bikini waxing; Little Miss Matched; Tantra; Mari’s Brownies; Cupcake Stop; 92nd Street Eyewear, and Carter & Cavero, olive oil from Spain.

The sneaker gallery, Maison 24 home decor, and jewelry will be on the second floor. There will be a Limelight branded shop with T-shirts, statues, teddy bears and handbags. Men furnishings will be on three.

The success of the project depends on Menashe assembling a complementary mix of tenants, and those tenants achieving financial success. With just 40 percent of the leases signed, he has a way to go. Vendors will be charged base rent and a percentage of sales in exchange for a turnkey space with everything they need to operate.

He rejected a comparison to the Plaza Retail Collection, another group of shops assembled under the same roof, which has been slow to get off the ground. “We’re midstream [in terms of price],” as opposed to the Plaza, which is mainly luxury brands, Menashe said, adding, “We have a whole marketing department and will do five to six events per week.”

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