Once a fashion and manufacturing enclave, New York City's Garment District has been invigorated and redefined as a number of retailers vie for real estate in the area. Although many of the fabric and garment stores that the area is known for are still in full operation, consumers now have the option of stopping in a restaurant or coffee shop while browsing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Urban Outfitters opened a 56,000 square foot store location in the district earlier this year, encouraging the trend towards retail growth.

Bob Savitt, the president of a real estate firm with property in the Garment District, says, "I've been working in this area for 30 years and in the past nine months it [the retail change] is moving faster than I have seen in 30 years." This comment is validated by the noticeable increase in real estate value: two years ago the average rent paid for ground-floor retail space was upwards of $125 per square foot, whereas now prices usually start at $200 per square foot. 

The change is facilitated in part by the development of large advertising and technology companies in the area, which provided the community with an infusion of cash that kick-started growth. Since 2005, 28 hotels have been established in the area and more are currently under development. Landlords are now recognizing the value of their holdings in the Garment District, and are reinvesting in renovation and development, especially along streets like Broadway that attract groups of pedestrians.

Retailers in the area say that the Garment District will never return exclusively to its fashion manufacturing roots, although neither will fashion's influence be unfelt. The aim is for the area to retain its historic quality while giving consumers a greater range of options for shopping and dining.