Train Delayed? Relax With a Bolivian Pastry and Bubble Tea

Record Mart in the Times Square subway station in New York, which will be part of a redevelopment project to add retail shops and restaurants to the subway system. 

Adding restaurants, however tiny,...

Adding restaurants, however tiny, to the underground corridors would be a stark change for the city. Even though lunch counters once dotted subway stations, including some on platforms, they mostly disappeared by the 1980s, when the subway system was plagued by low ridership and perceived as unsafe and unsanitary.

For the subway stations that will be redeveloped, the authority is also relaxing its rules on alcohol sales, though the beverages cannot be carried outside restaurants.

The station-as-destination concept is not without precedent. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks destroyed parts of Fulton Center, a multilevel hub in Lower Manhattan that ties together more than a half-dozen subway lines, it re-emerged in 2014 as a $1.4 billion transit and retail complex lit by a domed skylight.

On a smaller scale is TurnStyle[1], the Columbus Circle market in a below-grade passageway, which offers 30 businesses, including 19 with food. Privately financed with $14.5 million, the 27,000-square-foot TurnStyle offers savory Bolivian pastries, Japanese rice cakes, bowls of ramen, homemade pasta and bubble tea.

Since opening in 2016, the market has had a 90 percent occupancy rate, said Susan E. Fine , a principal at Fine Development Partnerships, the site’s developer. “It was unpleasant, not air-conditioned and ugly before,” Ms. Fine said, “and now it’s like a city street.”

Formerly a director of real estate for the M.T.A., Ms. Fine was also involved with bolstering shopping options at Grand Central Terminal, which doubled its retail space in a sweeping renovation in 1998. Average rent for the Grand Central shops and restaurants[2] is about $460 a square foot annually, according to the authority, which owns the terminal, and in August, all but one of its 95 spaces was rented.


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