For some time, 8th Street has been a ghost town. The once-plentiful shoe stores and other small businesses that lined it have dropped like flies in recent years. Trendy restaurants have tried to get a foothold and failed. It's ripe for "revival" and now the big guns are being rolled in to force the street into hyper-gentrification mode.
The Daily News files a startling report on 8th Street's upcoming upgrade--it's going from "under-retailed" to an "artisanal center."
Marlton House, Jeff Bachner, Daily News
Stumptown Coffee is coming first--they're a foodie favorite in the uber-hipster Ace Hotel (formerly the Breslin, a tragic story there). After that, BD Hotels, of the Bowery and Jane Street Hotels (more controversy there), will open a new boutique hotel in the former SRO Marlton House.
The neighborhood flippers have arrived.
Says BD Hotels' Richard Born, "We’ve had the experience of changing neighborhoods like with the Bowery Hotel, where we saw the area take off. We think that will happen here. I bet we raise square-footage prices by $100 across the street when we open... The beats hung out here, and in a way, hipsters of today are the beatniks of yesterday. I think Eighth St. will be as cool as Prince St. in SoHo."
Now we know who to credit for the Bowery Tsunami that turned an edgy neighborhood into Meatpacking East--a massive wave that has kept rolling, most recently right over Mars Bar. But "edgy" is hip and that makes it a prime target for the hyper-gentrification juggernaut.
The Marlton House, most recently a New School dorm, has a storied past. It housed many artists and bohemians, including Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and radical feminist Warhol-shooter Valerie Solanas. That gives it cachet. New York City's counter-cultural history is catnip for the trend-makers of today--we see it from the current gutting of the Chelsea Hotel to the foodie takeover of classic restaurants and bars.
This is not to say let's celebrate shuttered shoe stores and college dorms that once were SROs, but it seems that every time a boutique hotel, a hipster coffee chain, or a foodie-fetish restaurant drops on a block, it all becomes "as cool" as SoHo--another manufactured neighborhood.
As urban scholar Neil Smith says, gentrification in New York today is "really a systematic class-remaking of city neighborhoods...it’s about creating entire environments." So let's not delude ourselves into thinking this is just normal New York change. There is a Big Machine at work.
From strategically designed Bergen Street to the deep reaches of "authentrification," New York is starting to feel a lot like a Disney "master-planned community."