NEW YORK, United States — Last September, during New York Fashion Week, Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon provided a glimpse of the major transformation under way at Pier 57, a long-abandoned former shipping and passenger terminal located at West 15th Street, between Chelsea and the Meatpacking District on Manhattan’s West Side. Not only did the duo select the pier as the location for Opening Ceremony’s first ever runway show — a large-scale spectacle starring a fleet of luxury supercars — they also used the site to stage an immersive, week-long pop-up market, complete with boutiques situated in shipping containers, a range of food stands, a newsstand selling ‘zines, and events like concerts and fashion presentations.
The launch of the temporary market also doubled as a celebration of a new partnership: Lim and Leon had just signed a long-term lease with the pier’s developer, Youngwoo & Associates. The duo had no prior plans to build a third Opening Ceremony store in New York, but seeing Pier 57 and meeting with Youngwoo & Associates changed their minds. “Once we heard about the project and what they were planning to accomplish, it felt natural for us to speak about partnering together,” said Lim.
If all goes as planned, Youngwoo & Associates and its anchor tenants — which include Opening Ceremony and hotelier André Balazs (who is on board to build a 28,000-square-foot rooftop members-only health spa and beach) and Brooklyn Boulders (which plans to create a rock climbing and fitness facility) — could transform the roughly half-million-square-foot Pier 57 into a radically new kind of retail destination.
The rise of e-commerce means consumers no longer need to visit brick-and-mortar stores simply to transact, forcing physical retailers to provide people with a more compelling reason to visit. Youngwoo & Associates wants to lure visitors to SuperPier — the name is borrowed from a 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics — with an engaging, destination that blends retail with entertainment. The $200 million project, set to open in the summer of 2015, aims to unite a 3.5 acre promenade and rooftop park with an array of established and emerging names in fashion, dining and lifestyle. “People are looking to get lost in immersive environments,” said Zachary Beloff, marketing director of Youngwoo & Associates.
Joseph Pine, business guru and co-author of The Experience Economy, agreed. “Consumers want experiences — memorable events,” he said. “Yes, people still go shopping and buy goods and services, but unless retailers surround the purchasing of their merchandise with an engaging experience, consumers will treat them as commodities to be bought at the lowest possible price and the greatest possible convenience.”
Even though SuperPier’s official opening is nearly two years away, several experiential elements are already planned. A portion of SuperPier called the Incubox Marketplace — a carefully curated, 54,000-square-foot, four-level space composed of shipping containers called Incuboxes — offers an experience that’s reflective of the success of innovative local flea markets like the Brooklyn Flea and Hester Street Fair that have become authentic social events, complete with a wide array of culinary experiences, not just places to shop.
The Incubox Marketplace will be dedicated to “incubating” and showcasing a fusion of international brands, local start-ups, concept shops and micro-businesses, and offer a wide range of leasing options, starting at $600 for a small kiosk of about 40 square feet, suitable for a small jewellery designer, for example. The shortest leases will be six months; the longest will last for 10 years. “It was Young’s vision for New York to have an incubator for retailers from near and far to showcase goods in an affordable setting,” said Beloff.
To that end, Youngwoo & Associates plans to bring in labels from every corner of the globe, many of which would not otherwise have a physical presence in New York. Established fashion brands are welcome, too, but “we want them to do something really different in this space,” explained Beloff, who cited an indoor skatepark-cum-shop as an example of the kind of innovative and entertaining retail experience Youngwoo & Associates wants to foster.
But will SuperPier’s focus on retail entertainment be enough to ensure its success? That remains to be seen. But their approach is promising. “SuperPier is providing a place, an experience place, for brands to break through all the clutter of advertising today to engage consumers directly,” said Pine. “And if you get your customers to experience your offering, the chances they will buy it go up.”