SEEING GREEN: Manhattan’s Meatpacking District is launching a three-day flower-centric event to make shopping and spending in the neighborhood more inviting.
In bloom Friday through Sunday, the L.E.A.F. festival of flowers will feature a European-style flower market with 30 New York City florists selling their greenery on two blocks on Washington Street. The Whitney Museum of American Art is rolling out a 6,000-square-foot “Whitney Lawn” on Gansevoort Street temporarily this weekend. The second year of the annual event has attracted more area retailers than last year — 13 in total, including Hermès, Loro Piano, Google Home, Diane von Furstenberg, Warby Parker and Brunello Cucinelli. Independent boutiques like the T.a. boutique on West 13th Street are also participating.
Supported by FTD and Pernod Ricard USA, the independent horticultural organization L.E.A.F. has lined up 100 florists — Lewis Miller Design among them — to design installations in public plazas and within stores, The Gansevoort and The Standard hotels and other businesses. Sure, it will be pretty, fragrant and Instagram-able, but it’s really about economic development, according to the Meatpacking District business improvement district’s executive director Jeffrey LeFrancois. ”It’s the best example of events as economic development. The more we can do to elevate attention on the neighborhood, the better it is for business. What L.E.A.F. is offering is a curated, well-executed, tailored event, which is really reflective of what our brick-and-mortar offers in the neighborhood too. It’s [a matter of] the same tide rises all ships.”
As for what other neighborhoods or cities could take from the concept, “I’m a strong believer — especially in New York City — that leading with arts and culture is a win-win. Putting the creative class at the forefront of this event is a viable way to show returns across multiple industries,” he said. “It’s not just about an office neighborhood or a residential neighborhood anymore. You need mixed use and you need the experiential as a part of that. L.E.A.F. ticks off all of those boxes.”
The Meatpacking District’s occupancy rate has been between 72 and 75 percent since the lockdown ended. Twenty businesses have opened since the pandemic took hold and eight to 10 more are expected to bow in the neighborhood in the next three quarters or so, LaFrancois said. The menswear store Nigel Curtiss recently opened and two sunglass stores will be bowing: Krew and Barton Perreira. Gucci will be unveiling a store at the southwest corner of West 14th Street and Ninth Avenue at some point, LaFrancois said. Another luxury label Breitling, the watch specialist, plans to open a store near West 14th and Washington Streets.
Daily foot traffic in the Meatpacking District has doubled since last year at this time, the BID leader said. While area restaurants are now buzzing on weekdays as well as weekends, and some stores like Paige Denim have reported upswings in sales, LaFrancois acknowledged how the luxury business isn’t always consistent. “You might have a killer Tuesday and a slow Saturday. What we’re trying to do is do events to drive foot traffic and attention to the neighborhood to help sales numbers rise more consistently,” LaFrancois said.
The “phenomenal success” of the Whitney Biennial, which runs through Sept. 5, is attracting more people to the district, he said. At work on a mural on the north side of Gansevoort Street just west of Hudson Street, the Philadelphia-based artist Lawren Alice has been impressed by the number of languages she hears passersby speaking en route to the Whitney, LaFrancois said. Alice, who also owns the gallery Arch Enemy Art, is creating a mural inspired by the flower festival that will be up through the summer.