By CHARLES V. BAGLI
NEW YORK - After more than 135 years, Tiffany & Company is taking some of its diamonds, silver and robin's-egg-blue boxes and opening a second store — downtown on Wall Street.
Tiffany plans to open its second shop in New York City around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange, at 37 Wall Street, a 25-story Beaux Arts building that once was the home for the Trust Company of America. Gold earrings and platinum necklaces will be on discrete display beneath 35-foot ceilings, 10 feet higher than those at Tiffany's famous flagship store on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street.
Downtown may be the citadel of capitalism, but the shopping has long been a bit dowdy, especially in the financial district. Until now, that is.
Earlier this year, Hermès, the French leather goods retailer, announced plans for a store at 15 Broad Street, practically next door to Tiffany. Hickey Freeman, the fancy men's haberdashery, is over at 111 Broadway. And BMW opened a showroom at 67 Wall Street.
"When three Fifth Avenue retailers sign leases below Chambers Street within a year, you know downtown's retail renaissance has begun," said an elated Eric Deutsch, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.
The lease signed yesterday by Tiffany — the store is open in the fall — is the latest expression of the profound changes taking place in Lower Manhattan, as thousands of apartments spring up along Wall Street, between Broad and Water Streets. Tiffany's shop will sit on the ground floor of an office building being converted into 373 luxurious rental apartments by Orin Wilf of Skyline Developers.
Hermès will open next year in a 42-story building converted into 383 apartments by the designer Philippe Starck.
Developers have been racing to convert or build new residential buildings in recent years, with the numbers of apartments climbing to 20,871 this year from 13,046 in 2000, according to the downtown alliance. In turn, the number of residents downtown jumped 60 percent, to 36,733, between 2000 and March of this year.
The financial district suffered some defections after Sept. 11, as Lehman Brothers and other companies fled to Midtown. But the office buildings are beginning to fill up with law firms or expanding banks.
Christine Emery, the real estate broker who worked on the Hermès deal, said that Lower Manhattan was attracting high-end retailers because of its well-heeled working population and residents, its classic architecture, proximity to the East River or the Hudson, and plans for new transit centers.
"We're going back to our roots," said Beth O. Canavan, Tiffany's executive vice president for retailing. "The resurgence that's happening downtown makes it an important place to be."
But sales are also down at Tiffany's flagship, according to the company's latest financial reports. The jeweler may also want to be closer to those investment bankers who do not live on the Upper East Side.
Tiffany actually got its start downtown, opening a shop at 259 Broadway in 1837.
As the city grew, Tiffany began the slow retail migration uptown, with a stop in Union Square after the Civil War, before landing in 1940 on Fifth Avenue, at 57th Street.