Madison Avenue Is the New Meatpacking District Is the New SoHo

madison avenue Madison Avenue Is the New Meatpacking District Is the New SoHo

Uptown becomes more downmarket.

Once upon a time, different kinds of shops existed in different neighborhoods, catering to the different people who lived in those neighborhoods. Quaint, right? But that was then and this is now. And now every corner of Manhattan has been pretty thoroughly colonized, and homogenized, by upscale chain stores.

The transformation doesn’t only happen to formerly-gritty, formerly-edgy neighborhoods, either. The New York Times reports that Madison Avenue is the latest location to undergo such delightful changes—changes that have helped the street shake off its post-recession malaise at the same time that retailers like Juicy Couture and J.Crew are not exactly brands that the most insular and upscale of all Manhattan shopping districts would have originally welcomed with open arms.

The changes are attracting a younger, less affluent crowd to the Upper East Side stretch—The Times notes that the strip that once mixed the poshest of stores with a smattering of cheap diners now includes a more diverse range of brands—albeit the diverse range of brands that can be found in just about every shopping district below 96th Street these days.

Nearly 50 stores have opened in the last 18 months, among them Tory Burch, Bottega Veneta, Alice + Olivia, Theory, Rag & Bone and Proenza Schouler.

The area is also benefiting from the arrival of boutiques that are fleeing the meatpacking district. Last month, Yigal Azrouël announced that he was leaving his flagship store in the Meatpacking District for a 1,800 square foot storefront on the Upper East Side. After all, once Patagonia moves in and Lululemon stakes out a spot (Azrouël’s old spot, in fact), what’s the point of even pretending that the Meatpacking District is edgy anymore?

It’s only a matter of time before Madison Avenue turns into Soho: a tourist district of upper-middle class chain stores clogged with shoppers hell-bent on promenading three abreast and as slow as possible down the sidewalk.

“You can now buy a piece of art, some shoes and a panini,” LeAnn Nealz, the president of Juicy Couture told The Times. “It’s nice having old world New York mixed with some of these younger, hipper brands.”

And isn’t that the new American dream? A panini place in every neighborhood?

kvelsey@observer.com