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BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Models wore classic Diane von Furstenberg wrapped dresses and handed out goodie bags while sharply dressed men and women milled about at Brookfield Place’s retail launch on Thurs., March 26.
Outside, the day was dreary but inside the massive complex that was formerly called the World Financial Center, retail sprung to life as many stores, such as Michael Kors and Theory, were ready for business.
Le District, a 30,000 sq. ft. marketplace, also shone brightly as it previewed its cafe district where people couldn’t get enough of the freshly baked French pastries and coffee.
Downtown Express got a tour of Le District, which is divided into four parts: market, cafe, garden and restaurant. The front area, the cafe district, with its copper and hand-painted tiles highlights, includes a cafe and creperie. It will open on Mon., Mar. 30 with the other sections opening on Wednesday.
Le District was conceptualized as kind of street, explained Mariela Alvarez, designer at ICRAVE, the firm that designed and managed the construction of Le District. Each zone is like a neighborhood, designed to look a little different, she said.
The market district has blackened steel and tiled walls. It features different French-named shops, such as the boulangerie, which sells bread. The garden district is an open space that offers shopping and a prepared food bar. The restaurant district has both fine dining with private and casual options.
“We are very proud,” said Laurent Vasseur, director of operations. “It took countless hours and passion from everybody.
Vasseur told Downtown Express that he wanted Le District to be “welcoming for everybody” — residents, tourists and those who work in the buildings. He called Le District, “a really big restaurant where people can shop.”
HPH Restaurant Group is behind Le District, which is headed by Paul Lamas and Peter Poulakakos. Poulakakos’ family has been running Downtown eateries for decades and now has a hand in running restored Pier A.
Aoife Reddam is a recent resident of Battery Park City; she moved to the neighborhood last August. There are not a lot of restaurants open on the weekends, she said, and she looks forward to more options.
Reddam said she is excited about Le District. She likes Hudson Eats and is a member of Equinox.
Equinox has already been open for about a month. Matt Herrick, an employee that works at the front desk, said as of now, more of the members are office workers rather than local residents, but once construction is complete and people know that the gym is open that should change.
“We look forward to everything opening,” Herrick told Downtown Express two days before the official launch.
Babesta, Bonobos, Diane von Furstenberg, J Crew, Judith & Charles, Omega, Paul Smith, Posman Books, Satya, Tory Burch and Vince have opened.
Other retailers will open soon: Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Ermenegildo Zegna. Saks Fifth Avenue is expected to open early 2016.
Brookfield Office Properties began renovation in October 2011 and has invested about $300 million in the project across from the World Trade Center.
The renovation pushed out several shops and some in the neighborhood have criticized the new high-end retail.
@AudreyBPC tweeted Downtown Express this week that there is “Nothing for residents! Shops cater to business tenants.”
August Schopfer, 26, said that it will be convenient when the retail is open since he already enjoys the food options at Hudson Eats, which opened last year. He lamented, however, the loss of food trucks that were banished once the upstairs food court opened.
His colleague at American Express, Matt Kokeiwo, 34, said although he was indifferent about the new retail, he was happy that the construction is ending.
“I kind of forgot what it looked like [before],” said Schopfer.