Loft Law Limbo

Artists Fret As Albany Fiddles

Soho's current consumer culture proves Zukin right. "When you have a neighborhood with multiple branches of Louis Vuitton, cosmetic stores, and consumer goods, it's really quite something different," Zukin said in a recent interview. "It's not a local neighborhood anymore, and it's not an artists' group anymore. It's an urban mall, and I don't know whom to blame for that. The loft movement turned into a market a long time ago. It still has the cachet of a movement, but not much spirit."

Bill Jordan, a photographer who has lived on Lower Broadway for 22 years, calls his neighborhood's commercial explosion "a mixed blessing. I'm ambivalent because I don't like the crowds, but the larger-scale stores are— someone will kill me for saying this— more stable" than smaller shops that once populated his Broadway block but that have now been replaced with chains like Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Club Monaco.

Longtime loft-dwellers themselves have mixed feelings about the evolution. "As far as people being resentful that we have big spaces for low rent, what can I say?" asks sculptor Hall. "These neighborhoods were created by artists who needed space for their studios, and it's difficult to be apologetic. At the same time, I understand. You'd have a hard time moving to Tribeca now even if you were a stockbroker. The loft prices are unbelievable."

Research: Nellie Abernathy

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