By the late eighties, TriBeCa’s warehouse lofts were the last word in artsy, post-industrial cool. Things declined a bit in the last Bush recession, but a built-out SoHo and the increasing popularity of lofts spurred a wave of new conversions that has rid the district of anything resembling its manufacturing roots. Today, it remains the most overhyped trapezoid of real estate in America—home to Harvey Keitel, the Coen brothers, and Mariah Carey—the world capital of high-end hip. Since 1996, “Prices have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled in some buildings,” says Douglas Elliman’s Helene Luchnick, who’s beat the drum to get the uptown rich to move into high-ceilinged former textile warehouses.
STREET LIFE: “It’s safe, it has great parks, great schools, and not a lot of the phony and pretentious attitude we wanted to get away from,” says Maribeth Maloney, who fled the Upper East Side in 1998. “If you look at the way people dress, the way they dress their children, the types of birthday parties their kids have, it’s just more … fun.” Not that it’s easy to live in the middle of a neighborhood that’s being violently rebuilt around you. “When you have this kind of construction, there’s a huge amount of debris,” complains longtime resident Eric Bogosian, the performance artist. “It all gets put into containers that have to be winched up into the back of trucks in the middle of the night.”
CREATURE COMFORTS: Duane and Franklin are now lined with pricey, and usually empty, design stores. Eating out is not a problem, what with Nobu, Odeon, Bouley Bakery, and a dozen other destination eateries to choose from. Meanwhile, residents yearn for heirloom tomatoes to simmer on their Viking ranges: “Where’s the Dean & Deluca?” demands William B. May’s Iris Dauber. “There is a Food Emporium,” but it’s “kind of gross.” “If you’re resourceful you can get what you need,” says Maloney. Of course, it’s hard to tell someone who just spent $3 million on a gutted loft that they’re pioneering here. On the other hand, the lack of street bustle is its own reward.
MIGRATIONS: Mariah aside, TriBeCa is peopled mostly by professionals in their “forties and up, people who wouldn’t even dare come into the neighborhood five years ago,” says Dauber, “and a lot of families, because of P.S. 234.” And uptown refugees like Maloney, a 38-year-old lawyer turned stay-at-home mom who lives with her husband, a maxillofacial surgeon, in a 4,000 square-feet Murray Street loft. “Our children ride their bikes through our living room, we have a trampoline—you just can’t get that uptown,” says Maloney, whose children attend one of TriBeCa’s four pre-schools (all of which have waiting lists).
TIPPING POINTS: Robert DeNiro’s TriBeCa Film Center dates from the last boom—1989. More recently, having a sainted president’s princely offspring move in certainly didn’t hurt the neighborhood’s profile. But mostly, for whatever reason, it became fashionable for a good chunk of the well-off to live in a loft rather than in an Upper East Side high-rise.
WHAT’S NEW: In 1996, construction started on the 29-unit Dietz Lantern building at 429 Greenwich Street, the first full-service luxury conversion since 1982. “It was the first building to have a doorman and really started the new wave of luxury renovation,” says Luchnick. This year, a seventeen-story, windowless, refrigerated-storage facility became the Atalanta at 25 North Moore.
PROGNOSIS: For the most part, everything’s converted, and developers are moving east to old office buildings around City Hall Park and into the North-West corridor, west of Hudson street, where some vacant space still lingers unmarketed.
Click here for the full list of neighborhoods.