The Real Deal New York

Lower MacDougal’s small-town allure threatened by Soho development

March 15, 2013 08:30AM

A tiny block on lower MacDougal Street has retained its charm and small-town allure in the face of seismic shifts in the neighborhood, but its resistance to fold into the rest of Soho seems to be wearing thin, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The stretch between Prince and West Houston streets has long been defined by low-rise 19th century townhouses, storefronts and eclectic eateries, that stand in stark contrast to the hodgepodge of cafes, shops and street vendors on MacDougal north of Huston. “It’s a very sedate block…a wonderful block with people knowing each other. It’s not unique in that regard, but it is unusual, and unlike any other in New York,” Richard Blodgett, president of the nearby Charlton Street Block Association, told the Journal.

Indeed, its charm has attracted celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, patrons of Something Special, a mailbox rental and key store in the area.

Now, however, the neighborhood’s way of life seems to be at risk. Most of the restaurants on the block have changed owners in the last couple of years, and one has been shuttered.

“At one point, the only thing here was 12 Chairs and us,” Victoria Freeman, one of the owners of restaurant Hundred Acres, told the Journal. “It felt a little depressed around here — a whole block of boarded-up stores — it was really sad,” she said.

Abandoned buildings and vacant retail spaces in the neighborhood have resulted in anxious residents, who worry about the influx of homeless people and also of rats. A vacant three-story building received a demolition permit recently, though Warren Horowitz of Ajax Investment Partners told the Journal that there were no immediate plans for the property.

“I respect the fabric of the neighborhood,” Horowitz said, “but ultimately, research says it is an old building on a quiet Soho street. There is no mystery or secret plan, but I am exploring the options that are available for the property.”

The Hudson Square rezoning has added further uncertainty to the mix, as residents worry that it would add development pressure  to lower MacDougal if the area doesn’t receive landmarks protection. [WSJ]  –Hiten Samtani