Nolita is synonymous with fashion. The neighborhood bound by East Houston, Lafayette, Kenmare, and the Bowery got its name in the early 90s through a real estate ad campaign. Here, the streets are narrow, the restaurants are cramped, and the boutiques are extravagantly priced. Nevertheless, Nolita has become the destination of fashionistas, celebrities, artists, lawyers, and bankers alike – it is the “it” neighborhood that can barely keep up with itself.
Nolita does not change much during the summer for the most part because the designer boutiques situated along Prince, Mulberry, Mott, and Elizabeth are far too expensive for the average individual, especially the budget oriented tourist, and affluent New Yorkers tend to abandon the city during the summer months. However, the degree of change Nolita has experienced in the past two hundred years more than makes up for its seasonal invariability. The Irish were the first to inhabit the streets of today’s Nolita, followed by the Italians, then the Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, and Asians. In the mid-1900s Nolita was a run-down neighborhood, home to the lower classes and criminal endeavors. Then, in the 1990s Nolita made a comeback, evidenced by the rapidly rising price tag of its residential space. In 1996 a square foot cost $30, within five years that figure rose to $160, and today it is approximately $2,000! But, for the time being, despite its rise in popularity, Nolita remains a peaceful and rustic neighborhood. The atmosphere of Nolita, so far removed from hectic city life, is the reason why art vendors return to Prince Street every Saturday even though it means higher rent payments, why designers flock to Nolita each weekend in hopes of getting recognized, and why some of the city’s rich and famous have migrated precisely to this little nook in NYC.
Artsy folks originally moved from SoHo to Nolita in order to escape “mainstreamization” and unfair competition from wholesale vendors with a license to sell designer items at discount prices. Now, they are here to stay…until of course Nolita itself becomes too mainstream. Some argue that that will never happen, since the buildings of Nolita are too small to house brand name stores like the Gap. As of yet, a Starbucks is nowhere to be found, but development of luxury apartments is already underway. Due to the exceedingly rapid pace of gentrification, Nolita as it is today is not likely to remain a permanent fixture in New York’s panorama. So don’t miss your chance to visit this lovely New York oasis. Go to get away from crowds and traffic, go to enjoy the French-Moroccan fare at Café Gitane (and be sure to sit at a sidewalk table), and go to browse the up-scale boutiques and look like you have a million dollars to spend.