The Village didn’t change all that much during this boom, at least from the sidewalk. Spend a Sunday walking down Bleecker or Hudson and, unlike most everywhere else in town, you’re not passing a Gap on every block but tailors, bakers, and arts-and-crafts shops. Which isn’t to say that the boom skipped over Greenwich Village. Prices have doubled for renters, buyers, and leasers alike—hence the meatpacking district’s morphing into a Eurotrash sandbox—but the new crop of Village people still clings to the idea of being bohemian, so long as bohemia is a land of frothy lattes, $35 spiced-duck risotto, and square-toed Gucci loafers.
STREET LIFE: Five years ago, a stroll through Washington Square Park meant fending off a half-dozen drug dealers. Today, you’ll still get propositioned, but five of those six are likely to be narcs. (And the whole thing will be captured on video!) Back then, the meatpacking district was a parade ground for transvestite hookers. The girls are mostly gone now, making the streets safe for the likes of Julia Roberts and Mike Wallace.
MIGRATIONS: “There’s been this huge invasion of families, young professionals, and couples,” says James Ferrari, chairman of Benjamin James Associates. “It used to be more of an old New York neighborhood, young artist types and old people.” In today’s market, young people have little chance of making their home in the Village. “The only true artsy people living in the Village now are NYU students with tri-state guarantors,” says Ferrari. “Kids whose parents are big-money doctors and lawyers’” Another big shift was the gay migration to Chelsea. Christopher Street is still lined with rainbow flags, but the boys in the bars are likely to live north of 14th Street, or be tourists.
TIPPING POINT: With its slick asphalt for fanatical Rollerbladers and verdant lawns for fanatical sunbathers, the newly renovated Hudson promenade has given the West Village the one thing it never had: somewhere to play. “It’s like the new Gold Coast,” says William B. May broker Marc Maider. “You used to walk around there with a big dog and still be nervous.”
WHAT’S NEW: Among the few new buildings to have gone up is 495 West Street, a residence curiously designed to look like a converted factory, with raw-space lofts that went quickly at between $1 million and $4 million. There’s also the Kimberly at 534 Hudson, which replaced the garage made famous in Taxi and offers apartments with fireplaces, terraces, cherry-wood kitchen cabinetry, and a concierge (a third-floor two-bedroom with two and half baths is on the market for $1.15 million). Now talk centers on the Richard Meier– designed towers going up at 173 and 176 Perry Street. Future tenants include Martha Stewart and Calvin Klein, who forked over a reported $12 million to $15 million for a duplex penthouse.
PROGNOSIS: “It’s one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city,” saysMaider. “It’s a lot tamer now, okay, but it is what it is. The people who choose to live in the Village do so because they’re down-to-earth.” Except that down-to-earth now seems to require an MBA.
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