The architect of Grand Central Terminal’s mid-1990s transformation from a stately landmark into a stately landmark with bustling retail corridors will now open TurnStyle, a collection of 30 storefronts along the long concourse directly beneath Columbus Circle. Food vendors include the sweets-oriented Gelato Ti Amo, Magnolia Bakery, and Vegan Divas; Joe Coffee, Ignazio’s Pizza, and what the Times calls “fancy tacos” round out the mix so far. The ceilings may only be eight feet high, but there will be room for tables and chairs, and the MTA is already looking at the West 4th Street and Times Square stations as possible sites to undergo food-hall-ificaton.
No disrespect to the obvious surplus of sweets shops — Dylan’s Candy Bar is another TurnStyle tenant — but so far the underground format doesn’t seem to be attracting the more chef-oriented concepts that are the bedrock of New York’s crop of grand and glorious food halls. Subway-corridor seating doesn’t have the same cachet as sidewalk seating, and New Yorkers typically don’t go for anyplace that doesn’t have windows, but all this may soon change.
Underground rents are low, quoted between $275 to $425, and it’s been pointed out that other cultures tend to cherish their commuter-friendly noodle shops and ice-cream kiosks. Sukiyabashi Jiro, of course, has famously flourished in its basement digs, which are attached to the Ginza Station in Tokyo. Above all, the urban frontier is a limited place. After outdoor bazaars, indoor halls, and underground mini-malls, perhaps New York will next get its first floating markets.