Garment District To Be Next "It" Neighborhood?

by BILLY GRAY · February 17, 2010

We've told you the Garment District is on the verge before. Now, the Times notes that as the fashion industry's manufacturing backbone moves overseas, the neighborhood it leaves behind is reaching critical mass as a cultural mecca. Could Port Authority become the coolest place in town?

Alison Gregor's article focuses on the influx of Off and Off Off Broadway companies in the district (whose rough boundaries are 34th and 42nd Streets between 5th and 9th Avenues). Organizations like the Pearl Theatre Company, the Theatre Development Fund and the Baryshnikov Art Center have flooded the area as its old clothing factories, fabric stores and showrooms head to cheaper spaces abroad, taking the few old school garmentos left with 'em.

Shira Beckerman, managing director of the Pearl, confirms the area as a burgeoning safe space for theater geeks:

“If you walk through the area, it sort of looks like an arts district developing. In terms of the Off Broadway community, it feels as if there’s as many organizations in the garment district as there are right up in the Times Square area.”

This shouldn't come as a shock, since the Garment District meets the criteria of many an "emerging neighborhood" before it (Soho, Lower East Side, Meatpacking District).

It's relatively cheap (rents average $30 per square foot on side streets, compared to $70 a few blocks north in Times Square). Local peep shows and dive bars give it a retro seedy allure. An industrial past left behind a bounty of the kind of  warehouse and loft spaces creative types can't get enough of. And its proximity to saturated culture and nightlife districts (Broadway's theaters, Chelsea's clubs) make creative class overflow convenient and all but inevitable.

Nightlife pioneers haven't infiltrated the 'hood with the same speed as artistic nomads, but the two usually wind up coexisting (if not always peacefully). And now that 9-5 commerce has dried up in the always-diurnal Garment District, the time couldn't be better for a bold club or bar owner to take a gamble.

There are hurdles the neighborhood will meet on its route to hipness. Unlike Williamsburg or Soho, the Garment District is not exactly undiscovered by cool kids (see: Port Authority, Penn Station) as avoided unless absolutely necessary (see: Port Authority, Penn Station.)

But with a velvet rope nightclub/bowling alley  inside the Port Authority, stranger things have already happened.