Real Estate 2001: Neighborhood Profiles

Five years ago, NoLIta didn’t exist, so flush dot-commers invented it. Now prices in the boutique-infested, low-rise neighborhood are among the highest in the city, higher even than those of its almost-as-recently-conceived neighbor to the north, NoHo. So high that the developers of a twenty-loft conversion at 161 Grand Street are trying to glom onto the goodness by advertising their building near Centre Street as belonging to “SoLIta.” So high that another developer is in the midst of conquering the neighborhood’s once-insurmountable eastern barrier, putting up a new, glass-fronted, full-service apartment building at 199 Bowery. Welcome to ELIta.

STREET LIFE: While NoHo has maintained its quiet, “old-tyme” SoHo feel—even as it’s gained new eateries like Bond Street, Five Points, and Serafina Pizza—NoLIta has almost completely shed its Little Italy past. Now tiny clothing boutiques with iMacs as cash registers and chic coffee spots like Cafe Gitane and Cafe Habana give the area the feel of a high-tech nineteenth-century arrondissement. There are still quite a few rent-controlled old-timers who refuse to call the place NoLIta and probably still go to Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but their voices are overwhelmed by the pleasant din of a neighborhood bristling with young money.

TIPPING POINT: Apparently 285 Lafayette changed everything. “That was the beginning of NoLIta,” said Douglas Elliman’s Helene Luchnick. An old factory building was gutted and then crowned with a wedding cake of penthouses, creating homes for the likes of David Bowie and Ian Schrager. Rather than advertising the building as near SoHo, they used NoLIta as a selling point, and it worked, big-time.

WHAT’S NEW: The main event of the new NoHo century is under way at the old Carl Fischer building in Cooper Square, where unfinished lofts will go for as much as $6 million. Although the development is less than a block from St. Marks Place, “it’s landmarked NoHo,” insists area vet Mary Ellen Cashman of Stribling and Associates. The parking lot next door is slated to become a Rem Koolhaas–designed hotel.

PROGNOSIS: In the event of a slump, the hideous rental building at 284 Mott Street may be the first to suffer. It fronts on East Houston Street and has fetched high rents for bland, small apartments because it opened in the mid-nineties, just as the area’s hipness was beginning to blossom. The area’s location between Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side, and SoHo makes it likely that the few remaining patches of land there will be developed, creating a seamless (if possibly charmless) Village.

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Real Estate 2001: Neighborhood Profiles