Photo by Stephanie Buhmann
Limelight Marketplace: Plenty of room to maneuver (outside, that is).
Limelight Marketplace’s layout ‘narrow, overloaded, overbearing’
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN
On May 7th, Limelight re-opened its arched doors — officially embracing its third reincarnation. Located on 6th Avenue and 20th Street, the former Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion became infamous as Peter Gatien’s decadent 1980s/1990s nightclub. The Limelight secured a notorious place in NYC crime/pop culture history when, in 1996, club promoter Michael Alig was arrested and convicted for the killing and dismemberment of the drug dealer Angel Melendez. But these memories, though still prominent in some New Yorkers’ minds, are now null and void by a new enterprise. Bearing a rather curious facelift, Limelight finds itself promoted as a marketplace and home for high-end consumer products.
The Limelight Marketplace, which was conceived by Jack Menashe (who formerly owned the SoHo retail store Lounge) and James Mansour of Mansour Design, is a mall striving for a bazaar-like feel. Three stories are crammed with several boutiques, bakeries, jewelry and chocolate stores — creating a dense shopping experience for those craving sweets, expensive trinkets and luxe leisure fashion.
Despite the peculiarity of seeing a former house of worship turned into a house of commerce, the interior structure and overall program simply does not work. The space feels narrow, overloaded and ultimately overbearing. Visitors get trapped in walkways that are far too tight and staircases that connect the abundant clutter of shops. Instead of establishing an overall concept for the interior layout, Limelight Marketplace has encouraged each store to express their individuality. The result is a hideously fragmented hodgepodge of awnings, canapés, and brightly painted walls.
It comes as no surprise that besides its outer shell, not much remains of the building’s past. The only upside is the showcasing of the 19th century stained glass windows — many of which were discovered under layers of drywall during the renovation process. Some of the shops are organized around the windows (and those closest to them pay significantly more rent), which date back to 1844.
As recently as December 2009, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected the proposal to transform Limelight into a boutique mall — due to plans that supported more prominent lighting and signage. One wishes the commission would have considered the interior layout as well. This jumble, at present, is simply neither here nor there.