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125th Street really is turning into the new 34th Street

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

Holiday lights on 125th Street in Harlem

The holiday lights on 125th Street are shining brightly again, which can mean only one thing: the Christmas shopping season is in full swing.

But don't let the familiar lights distract you. The transformation of 125th Street is moving at warp speed these days.

Aldo shoes in Harlem

As the months pass there are fewer and fewer reasons to head to midtown to hit the big shops and chains. The latest arrivals this fall include Aldo (it replaced American Apparel) and Blick Art Materials, joining big guns like Old Navy, H&M and T.J. Maxx.

Retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters and MAC Cosmetics are sitting pretty already. And coming down the pike are Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works (they'll be adjacent to the Whole Foods Market, which opened over the summer to much fanfare). P.C. Richard & Son will be another new neighbor.

Meanwhile, it's not just the retail scene that is changing. Because of a recent rezoning that allows certain blocks to have much higher buildings, 125th Street is set to transform in other ways. A hotel at the former Victoria Theater is about to shoot up. And in the coming years the Studio Museum will be rebuilt into a modern space designed by start architect David Adjaye.

Harlem street vendors

That's not to say 125th Street is unrecognizable. The Apollo Theater and its famous marquee still stands like a beacon in the middle. And the strip's unique street vendors peddling scented body oils and Harlem-branded clothing are still on most corners doing their thing. But the changes are happening so quickly, you might want to buckle up as you head out shopping this weekend.

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