SoHo is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan bounded by Houston Street to the north, Canal street to the south, Varick Street to the west and Lafayette Street to the east. SoHo is an abbreviation for “SOuth of HOuston” and is known for being an archetypal example of urban regeneration.
SoHo was built up as an exquisitely designed light manufacturing area in the mid 19th century but over the span of the next hundred years declined so significantly that the area became known as Hell's Hundred Acres—an industrial wasteland in the middle of Manhattan.
By the 1960s, New York City had moved away from a manufacturing based economy almost completely and with that SoHo’s cast iron buildings were left vacant. Unable to find suitable space in other areas in New York, artists started moving into SoHo’s loft buildings which provided them large, unobstructed floor plates which attracted artists who valued them for their large areas, natural light and low rents. Often these studios were also used illegally as living space, as residential use was in violation of the zoning.
As the artist population grew, the city abandoned attempts to keep the district as strictly industrial space, and in 1971 permitted certified artists to reside in their workspaces. As artists’ interests became more entrenched in the area and the population increased, the neighborhood experienced a renaissance.
Over the past two decades, SoHo has lost almost all connection to its bohemian history and its renaissance. Today SoHo is an international shopping destination and SoHo's boutiques and restaurants are always buzzing with tourists. The sidewalks are often so crowded in certain areas that it is almost impossible to walk.
While the retail infrastructure in SoHo is very developed, is almost entirely focused on tourists and shoppers. While there are many restaurants in SoHo, there are very few groceries stores. Transportation linkages in SoHo are good given that a few major subway lines run through it.