I stopped by last week’s opening of Manhattan’s Limelight Marketplace—a church reincarnated as a notorious '80s nightclub most recently made over as a shopping mall—with an almost irreverent sense of curiosity. With a past so checkered, I expected a mixed crowd, and sure enough, the three-level, multi-wing retail space was brimming with journalists (both skeptical and adoring), local reality stars (think Real Housewives posing with Hunter boots for the press), and the occasional camera-toting wanderer shaking his head in disbelief while reminiscing about parties fueled by pills, music, and illicit behavior.
The go-go girls, devilish red lighting, and shady corners are all long gone—they disappeared in the '90s—and the church stood vacant until last winter, when retail developer Jack Menashe saw an opportunity to create his own version of nearby Chelsea Market.
Menashe took over the space and filled it with a carefully edited selection of 48 shops: the club’s old D.J. platform is now MarieBelle chocolates; Havaianas, Selima Optique, LeSportsac, and Hunter boots stand in the place of makeout booths. I had fun exploring all of the building’s nooks and crannies—several times, I rounded a corner or descended a staircase only to discover yet another cluster of storefronts—but I imagine that these navigational quirks might get tiresome after a second or third visit.
While I found the mix of shops a bit too eclectic, I was thrilled to stumble upon a corridor of food stalls, including Baci Gelato, Miss Tea, Butterfly Bakeshop, and Carter and Caverno (extra virgin olive oil), which opened into a courtyard stocked with fresh produce looking out on West 20th Street. And the word is that several restaurants, including Brooklyn darling Grimaldi’s pizza, will be opening in the coming months.
Whether you’re a fan of the market or one of its detractors, disillusioned by the building’s progressively commercial iterations, expect more on the way—Menashe plans to roll out Limelights around the country.
Bree Sposato is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.