I've been fascinated with flow for as long as I can remember. Where do people walk, where do they stop, why do they stop, what do they do when they stop. It's not just a retail thing, though it's no coincidence that it's uniquely more of an urban thing than not. After all, both are about options and choice and the millions of calculations people make as they take in data, assess their options and move on. Since opening the market, moving it into 4 warehouses in Williamsburg across various spaces with their own unique space plans and configurations and opening a pop-up shop twice at Chelsea Market, I find myself thinking about it a lot more with a lot more deliberation. How much can flow can be engineered and controlled for? More to the point, how much do I want that?
I know that big box retailers are masters of flow and traffic control. Grocery stores have it down to a science (milk in the back, produce in the front). Mall developers are fiends for statistics that allow them to vary what they charge per square foot cost based on placement within a mall. But I've yet to find a market - in the purest sense and the purist's sense - where flow is controlled for and engineered. Because what makes a market demonstrate the characteristics of a market is that ying and yang that is control and chaos, the thing that allows for serendipity and chance even when there's a feeling of some outright order or logic to it.
I've spent a lot of time at varying hours of the day (and night) walking through Chelsea Market over the past several months. It is a different market from what I recall it when it first opened in the mid 1990s. Then again, what in New York isn't. But Chelsea Market has that unique set of attributes that I would imagine make enterprising real estate "market" developers start a sentence with "I want to make it _____'s [insert city of choice in country of choice] Chelsea Market." History. Authenticity. Timing. Relevance. It's almost impossible to export and transplant something that ethereal and elusive.
Markets work when they are organic, evolutionary and have a sense of history and connection but also a sense of whimsicality, a sense of discovery. You can't manufacture that. You can't stage it. See for yourself.