BY: ROBERT JACKMAN
When catwalk queen Gigi Hadid shared photos of her newly renovated New York apartment online it caused something of a stir.
Armchair critics compared the busy and brave decor – the result of a $5.8m refurbishment – to a student hostel, as photos of the apartment spread across Twitter.
But while Hadid’s taste in interior design might raise eyebrows – dyed pasta! – it’s impossible to be sniffy when it comes to her choice of location.
NoHo (or North of Houston Street) has gone from being the cheaper end of NYC’s chic warehouse district to one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in all of Manhattan.
Though it might not match the A-list muscle of Greenwich Village yet, NoHo’s arty past makes it a big draw for celebs wanting to show their bohemian credentials.
Aside from Hadid, the area’s famous residents include Cynthia Nixon – the Sex and the City star and former gubernatorial candidate – and Twilight actress Kristen Stewart.
The neighbourhood’s reputation harks back to the 60s, when struggling artists headed to the warehouse district to set up cheap residential studios in the numerous vacant lofts.
The likes of Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethrope and Jean-Michel Basquiat all worked in NoHo. Mapplethorpe’s former studio – where he famously photographed Patti Smith – can still be found on Bond Street, whereas Basquit worked – and died – nearby on Great Jones Street.
As the romantic notion of the artist’s loft entered the American consciousness, creatives worried they might find themselves priced out by richer newcomers – or evicted due by city authorities (who fretted about the safety of the makeshift apartments).
After an extensive lobbying campaign, tenants succeeded in getting a law passed – the 1982 Loft Law – providing rent guarantees for existing occupants, as well as obliging landlords to bring the lofts up to standard.
While it meant that artists were able to stay put, the regulation has had some unintended consequences. Last year, it was reported that the model Emily Ratajkowski and her film-producer husband had managed to use the Loft Law to duck some $120,000’s worth of rent on their luxury Manhattan apartment.
Like much of Manhattan, today’s NoHo blends luxury developments with impressive period architecture.
The distinctive Bayard–Condict Building – a national landmark since 1976 – is the only NYC building designed by Louis Sullivan – the Chicago skyscraper pioneer immortalised in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.
Meanwhile, the De Vinne Press Building, a former printing house, sits on the corner of Lafayette and 4th St. The building – described by the New York Times as a ‘19th century masterpiece’ – has been impressing architectural buffs for over a century.
The luxury boom began in the mid-2000s, with the birth of 40 Bond Street, an 11-storey glass-bound residential complex complete with distinctive bottle-green mullions.
The first residential building by boutique hotelier (and former owner of the legendary Studio 54 nightclub) Ian Schrager, 40 Bond Street attracted a new wave of interest in the area from rival developers.
The past ten years have seen three similarly snazzy developments on Bond Street alone, with half a dozen more on neighbouring roads.
The latest is 25 Great Jones Street: an 11-storey luxury condo designed by local architects BKSK. Standing next to a renovated tenement complex, the structure contains six residential units with prices starting just south of $10m. The 4,000ft penthouse – inspired by the old Warhol-era lofts – is expected to fetch double that.
But the mega-money developments haven’t dented NoHo’s allure with creative types. Most recently, the area has emerged in fan theories surrounding one of the mysteries on Taylor Swift’s latest album, Cardigan.
Several of the songs are reportedly co-written by a Mr William Bowery. Yet despite Swift’s effusive praise of Bowery, no-one can find any evidence of his existence.
Swifties (as her superfans are known) have speculated that the name might be a reference to The Bowery – the once notorious NoHo street which has hosted everything from the CBGBs punk club to the likes of junky poet William Burroughs.
Swift herself would know the area well, having lived on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village – just west of NoHo.
Could America’s sweetheart be eyeing up a move east in the near future? Now that would really put NoHo on the map…
Get close to the creative elite with these NoHo properties: