This square-shaped area surrounded by Houston Street (pronounced House-ton), Crosby Street, Sixth Avenue and Canal Street, is an ideal place to live and work, and is very centrally located. The spectacular pre-war, post-war and 1970s buildings that equally occupy the territory are over-dominated by the abundance of six-story loft buildings with grand windows. Interiors often follow a minimalist aesthetic mirroring the feel of the white-walled art galleries downstairs. In addition, some buildings have been retrofitted with at least a freight elevator. Residents today revel in their investments, and they are as alive, trendy, and talented as the neighborhood they occupy. Today when you think of SoHo, you think of an exciting, bustling European city…,all about eccentricity, creativity and diversity. Just step outside your doorway to discover the many high-end fashion boutiques, cutting-edge restaurants and hotels that await you, not to mention any of the hundred art galleries that display works covering the gamut of art disciplines.
This triangle of land was first considered the Lower West Side, but after witnessing the revitalization of SoHo, market-smart real estate professionals pounced on the opportunity to capitalize on the catchier name. So TriBeCa it was, and it worked. By the late 1990s, it became a haven for the cool and hip, a thriving commercial, residential and artistic community just like neighboring SoHo. People who live in TriBeCa live well, and enjoy the dichotomies of pleasure that the area brings – that is, a place that’s secure yet not overly established; one that’s exciting but not too outrageous; one that’s upscale in price, but all the while worth it! Pre-war buildings dominate this wonderful neighborhood, although many have been renovated into super-luxurious lofts with huge windows. With its vibrant mix of residential and commercial living, including elegant high-rise apartments and new construction, TriBeCa is poised for more growth in the years to come.
SoHo is a neighborhood that has been completely transformed from an industrial labyrinth to a desirable, luxurious, trendspot. Way before its present revival, SoHo endured its share of ups and downs. Its great farms were first subdivided and developed as a quiet residential suburb after the American Revolution, though the oldest still-existing house dates only from around 1806. By 1825, what is now SoHo was the most densely populated area of New York, and by 1840, it became highly fashionable. Expensive hotels and retail stores of sterling reputation lined Broadway by the 1850s, while the side streets were filled with brothels, dance halls and casinos. Between 1860 and 1890, most of the cast-iron architecture so admired today was constructed, and the buildings served as factories or warehouses, often with shop fronts on the ground floor. As appealing as they are today, their Corinthian columns, Palladian windows and French Second Empire dormers functioned as sweatshops for southern and eastern Europeans working more than 12 hours a day. SoHo and Little Italy still overlap, and much of the remaining population is descended from those immigrant workers.
Though the sweatshops were put out of existence, SoHo stayed industrial until only recently. Gradually, the cast-iron buildings became outmoded and inconvenient, and small industry – paper-box companies, tool and die factories, wool remnant companies – moved elsewhere. In 1959, the City Club of New York published an influential report naming the area, then known as Hell’s Hundred Acres because of its frequent fires, or as The Valley (a lowland between the architectural highs of the Financial District and Midtown), an industrial slum lacking in noteworthy architecture. But in the early 1960s, artists attracted by those same empty commercial buildings began moving in, illegally converting space to apartments and installing plumbing, wiring and heating. To protect themselves from profiteering landlords, they bought entire buildings, and tenants’ associations began lobbying for legalization. Major rejuvenation took place because artists couldn’t resist the enormous, affordable loft space available there. The art got bigger, and the area more popular. By 1970, SoHo had become heaven for real estate brokers, as well as art dealers, some of whom descended from the pricier Upper East Side, and the artists themselves, who had begun to make a decent living. Film, video and “performance” art studios – the avant-garde media of the 60s – were now staples of SoHo artistic life; experimental dance and drama flourished, and cooperative galleries emerged. When zoning regulations regarding former warehouse spaces were rescinded in 1972 thanks to concerned artists’ efforts, SoHo got its push towards becoming the dynamic, sought-after neighborhood it is today. The desirability of the area led to the establishment of the SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District – roughly bounded by Houston, West Broadway, Crosby and Canal Streets – to preserve the exquisite facades. Even the original “Belgian brick” cobblestones have been lovingly restored.
TriBeCa first blossomed as a commercial center with the age of the steamship, when deep-water wharves along the Hudson took away shipping business from the older, shallow-draft piers of the East River. Washington Market, the island’s first major fruit and veggie market, spurred the district’s commercial development as the Federal and Greek revival residences were converted to warehouses. Today TriBeCa is a highly regarded community for people of all kinds. There’s some of everything to take advantage of, whether it be good food, wine, art or clothing. There are plenty of quaint eateries, where style and grace are as important as the food that’s served, and plenty of clubs and entertainment outlets. The area tends to attract social people who thrive on entertaining guests in their spacious lofts. Like its sister SoHo, TriBeCa has become known for its cast-iron architecture, developed in the mid-19th century as an alternative to fancy architectural detail. The area still features magnificent pre-war buildings throughout, with many having been renovated into the most exquisite loft spaces.