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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission last week approved an extension of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District that added about 135 properties located on the blocks immediately adjacent to the east and west sides of the district.

"A number of firms that would later become nationally prominent had an early presence in the historic district extension. The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, carriage makers, occupied 261-267 Canal Street in the 1890s. The company later grew to become one of the country's largest producers of automobiles in the twentieth century. Philip Morris & Co. was located at 402 -404 West Broadway around 1910. The company was one of the major producers of cigarettes and tobacco products. F. W. Woolworth had a stores at 424-426 Broadway in the 1920s," according to the designation report for the extension.

"A major change in the type of occupancy occurred after World War Two. As the textile industry began to relocate to the southern United States and then, ultimately, to overseas destinations in search of cheaper labor, many printing plants and 'dead storage' warehouses moved into SoHo's large interior spaces. Many loft buildings were razed and replaced with gas stations, auto repair shops, parking lots, and one-story garages and car washes, producing many somewhat mottled streetscapes. By the late 1950's, the SoHo area was widely considered to be a depressed commercial slum known as 'hell's hundred acres,'" according to the designation report for the extension.

"But," the report continued, "by the 1960's, an up-and-coming generation of artists discovered the large, high-ceilinged, and inexpensive spaces within loft buildings of SoHo. Vacant warehouses and lofts were converted into studios, galleries and, often illegally, living quarters. The city amended zoning laws in 1971 to permit the movement of artists into the area while preserving the remaining businesses that still employed hundreds of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. For a time, the SoHo area was one of the most important creative centers of contemporary art in the nation. Among some of the notable artists and galleries located in the historic district extension were Keith Haring, the A.I.R. Gallery, which was the city's oldest women's art cooperative, Leo Castelli, Ileana Sonnabend, John Weber, Andre Emmerich, Charles Cowles, Mary Boone, and Frank Gehry. The threat of further demolition and large-scale redevelopment subsided greatly when the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District in 1973; the action protected about 500 buildings on 25 city blocks."

"By 1978," it noted, "an estimated five thousand artists were living in SoHo; but around that time, rents and real estate values began a precipitous climb. The area was becoming more fashionable as a residential and commercial address, and many of the artists who had revitalized the once-neglected district were priced out of the gentrifying neighborhood. Upscale boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and shops replaced studios and galleries, and most of the remaining small industrial businesses. Many new commercial businesses were constructed in the last two decades of the twentieth century on lots that had been vacant for decades. Late-twentieth-century development trends have continued and even accelerated in the early twenty-first century. Additional new buildings were constructed on many of the empty lots, and several buildings were increased in height."
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.