The failed promise of a festival marketplace: South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan
This article examines the history of urban renewal planning for the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, the largest and most subsidized festival retail marketplace in the United States. Festival marketplaces were a leading downtown revitalization strategy in American cities during the 1970s and 1980s. The Seaport marketplace was planned and developed over a 20-year period as a joint venture between the non-profit South Street Seaport Museum, the city and state of New York, and the Rouse Company. The Seaport became a popular Manhattan destination, relying upon an expanding banking and financial sector for political support and as a source of demand for retail shops, restaurants and offices. But its marginal profitability eroded with the Wall Street downturn of the late 1980s, and the Museum withdrew from its joint venture with Rouse, unable to realize financial returns to support its operations. This case study illustrates the tension between historic preservation and real estate development, the changing politics of city planning and urban renewal in New York and the economic problems of the festival marketplace.