The 1970s represents the heyday and golden age of the SoHo to many neighborhood artist residents. Attracted by the ample space of the industrial lofts, and the low rents resulting from the fiscal crisis the city was facing, SoHo was redefined as a creative enclave that added to the avant-garde culture scene of downtown Manhattan. Yet over the last few decades, SoHo–especially the Broadway corridor–has shifted towards becoming a mixed-use residential, office, and retail district; the large floorplates that offered artists convenient live/work setups have also attracted international retail brands and offices for a range of industries, not to mention high-end residential units.
While for many longtime artist residents, the SoHo of the past can feel but gone, if not a memory, the recent COVID-19 crisis has brought back one aspect of the neighborhood that hasn’t been seen for a long time: empty streets. As public life has currently come to a near halt in the district, let’s take a look at the SoHo of then and now to see how much the neighborhood has changed, and the similarities that exist to our present situation.
The divestment that cleared away the SoHo of the first half of the 20th century led to a flowering of creative pursuits and community identity in the neighborhood in the 70s. With another external condition momentarily clearing away much of what has come to define SoHo of the present day, only time will tell what will come next and who will shape the area in our post-pandemic city.
If you want to learn more about SoHo in the 70s, check out a prior post on the subject by Yukie Ohta of the SoHo Memory Project.