From the 1890s to the 1950s, SoHo was defined by its manufacturing uses. Many of the sturdy
cast iron structures found in the neighborhood today date from the turn of the Century and were generally built for businesses who manufactured goods on the upper floors and sold those goods on the ground floor. By the 1950s, national economic trends pushed manufacturing out of cities and into the suburbs. SoHo – and New York City broadly – experienced a similar decline of manufacturing.
In the ensuing decade, artists (especially those working in large media) moved in to SoHo’s vacant industrial buildings seeking cheap rent and spaces that could accommodate their work. By the mid-1960s, these early SoHo pioneers put forth a request to change the area’s existing light manufacturing zoning to allow artists to live and work in their lofts. This proposal represented a major shift away from zoning that had previously only allowed manufacturing and other commercial uses. In 1971, the City amended the existing M1 zoning to become M1-5A and M1-5B, allowing artists to live and work in loft buildings for the express purpose of producing their art. The City maintained the overarching manufacturing zoning in the hope of preserving blue-collar jobs. The M1-5A and M1-5B zoning currently remains in place.To SoHo Zoning Guidebook See All FAQ