Thursday, June 28, 2012

What is SoHo?

Above: Broadway looking South; Bottom: Broadway facing North.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler) 
Until a few years ago I actually had not visited SoHo other during bus tours of the city. When the defunct branch of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex opened in 2009 in the neighborhood, that was my first reason to step into the neighborhood. At first the area didn't really impress me as I immediately notice the preponderance of name brand retailers that could be found elsewhere in the city.

But I have returned regularly since having discovered the bakery at Balthazar, the fresh and affordable fashions at Uniqlo, a branch of the MoMa Design Store and Dean & Deluca, a high-end purveyor of fine food, wine and kitchenware.

The neighborhood feels touristy than Fifth Avenue and is just one Metro Stop along the Broadway Local train (Prince Street, trains N and R) from Times Square. Today is Thursday morning and I'm surprised at the limited foot traffic in the neighborhood but its still early and the crowds will descend onto the streets soon enough. Even the benches in front of the restaurant and bakery Balthazar has seats to spare.

Not to be confused with the London neighborhood of the same name, SoHo got its name from an abbreviation of "South of Houston Street". The neighborhood extends south to Canal Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues and Lafayette Street, one block east of Broadway.

Formerly a 19th century industrial zone, SoHo still retains the impressive cast-iron architecture of the era and cobblestone can be found peeking out from beneath the asphalt. Cutting-edge artists began occupying the deteriorating building in the 1960s and in turn making it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city.

SoHo is now a prime example of urban gentrification and a major visitor attraction for its restored buildings, dining and shopping. Most of the galleries of that began appearing in the '60s have moved away and many critics say that SoHo has become a victim of its own popularity with major brands replacing independent boutiques. Still it is one of the best neighborhoods to spend a morning and afternoon of shopping and eating.

My visit today and the next few posts should cover my planned visits to Uniqlo and Balthazar Restaurant and Bakery.

Armani Exchange, just one of the major brands lining Soho store fronts.
Above and below: A branch of the fine food retailer Dean & Deluca.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)


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