The ‘villages’ that never sleep

27 November 2013Shares

In a country in love with anything branded, New York must be it’s most branded city, a place where everyone wants to be someone and live somewhere special. In pursuit of this, areas within the city are defining themselves ever more precisely. Soho for example now has neighbours that include NoHo and WoHo to the north and west. Where, bluntly put, those who’d like to live in SoHo but can’t afford the prices now choose to live.

Sometimes however this desire to create special ‘villages’ within a vast city can backfire. Take the example of an area now known (and indeed shown on maps) as DUMBO. An acronym describing the small area of Brooklyn – down under and near the on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. This had long been the bohemian preserve of artists and creative types. Enjoying a laid back lifestyle in old warehouses that were remarkably cheap to live in given their close proximity to Manhattan. So in a deliberate attempt to preserve their way of life and discourage development, the local residents came up with the idea of naming the area DUMBO. Confident in the fact that no one would want to live in a place that might indicate it was either home to Disney’s flying elephant, or that it’s residents lacked much cerebral prowess. Sadly and simply put the plan didn’t work. The catchy acronym caught the attention of both real-estate developers and much richer creative types. And today DUMBO has become a very cool and pricey place to live.

Today, the area arguably attracting most attention from developers and aspirant New Yorkers, is that immediately surrounding The High Line. The linear park created from the rusting remnants of an old elevated railway line that now runs up the lower west side of Manhattan. In a city always pushed for ‘horizontal space, living close to the High Line offers buyers the tantalizing opportunity to be next to a green space that when completed will be around a third as long as Central Park. And if appearances are to be believed, it would seem that the operators of The High Line and the development community may already have struck up a healthy, symbiotic relationship. With a number of the new apartment blocks featuring small bridges to afford residents direct access to the park. Which likely equals higher prices for the developers, and much needed cash in the pocket of The Friends of The High Line.

Further afield, and New York’s appetite for ensuring that everywhere feels like somewhere special shows no sign of abating. And today just a half hour walk will take you from SoHo into NoHo and WoHo, through a West Village, an East Village, followed by an area made famous for ‘meat-packing’. Before you arrive in the Boho splendour of Chelsea.

Where all this village-ification will end, nobody knows. But so long as it supports higher real-estate prices, and defines attractive new places for aspirant New Yorkers to live, then it will surely continue well into the future.


Author: Chris Abel