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When urban neighborhoods go through gentrification, they usually lose touch with the trademark institutions that gave them their identity. But on New York’s Lower East Side, an area historically known as the neighborhood for immigrants from Eastern Europe that transitioned to a hipster hangout known for its cutting edge cafes and clubs, a development is underway to do exactly the opposite. Essex Crossing in the heart of the neighborhood that will comprise 1079 new residences, both rental and coop, over 350,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of green space and 400,000 square feet of retail space is anchoring its food outlets in the culture of the area. The relocated Essex Market, a collection of food purveyor stalls and restaurant outlets which first opened on Essex Street in 1940, moved to a sprawling space here earlier this year. Late last month, The Market Line, a restaurant complex opened a floor below. Both are designed to showcase vendors and cuisines associated with the neighborhood or other New York City locales.

The physical layout is spartan, industrial, with polished concrete floors and high gloss black ceramic tiles. The roster of Market Line opening vendors, though, is earthier. Among them: Ends Meat is an Italian style butcher and salumeria, a satellite of their main shop in Sunset Park, Brooklyn selling cuts of meat, cured meats and sandwiches, including one that reaches into another city: New Orleans’ muffuletta.  Nom Wah, a Chinatown stalwart dating from 1920, is selling dumplings, noodles and other items. The Pickle Guys, a classic in the neighborhood reflecting the Lower East Side Kosher pickle vendors who’ve been selling their wares since 1910 are selling their barrel cured trademark half and full sour pickles as they still do nearby on Grand Street. Pho Grand also maintains their restaurant selling their classic Vietnamese soup on Grand while opening an outpost here. Veselka, an East Village staple since 1954, is selling its Ukrainian specialties borscht and pierogi here.

Other vendors are new entrants into the restaurant market such as Essex Pearl, a seafood restaurant owned by the family that has run a seafood market for 30 years at New York’s Fulton Fish Market. And some have extended from restaurants to markets such as Rustic Table Shuk, a market selling North African and Mediterranean staple ingredients as well as salads and sandwiches that’s an offshoot of the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant Rustic Table.

In this early stage, twenty vendors are in business at The Market Line; 35 are upstairs at Essex Market including the idiosyncratic restaurant Shopsin’s with its impossibly vast menu. More are coming on both floors. Ultimately the plan, due to be completed in 2021, is to measure 150,000 square feet for both floors, creating the largest market in New York.

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