The Triangle Below Canal Street is best known for its old loft buildings, its concentration of Four and Five Star restaurants, a large contingency of hold-out tenants from 25 years ago, and its overall quirkiness. Public School No. 234 is considered by most to be the best public school in all of New York City. The last five years has seen almost every possible building in this neighborhood converted into condominiums. We don't need to spend much time describing the typical resident if we know that most of the housing stock has become 1000+ square foot condominium lofts, and that the average per square foot for those apartments has long since eclipsed $1000/per foot. The neighborhood is rich with manufacturing history, landlord versus tenant strife, and exceptional spaces. Tribeca has a little something for everyone, but nothing exceptional for anyone. . . unless you have a few million bucks.
Precisely because it was neglected for such a long time and then had the benefit of historic preservation, Tribeca presents a rich variety of elegant 19th and early 20th century buildings in many different architectural styles that reward both the demanding expert and the casual viewer. The area's oldest houses are just two blocks from Duane Park on Harrison Street: a row of pristine Federal-style houses that date from the early 19th century. They are true survivors, having been made over into mini-warehouses when the neighborhood went commercial in the 1850s and 1860s, and then converted back into residences in the 1970s. Starting in the 1870s, the onrush of commercial development headed west to the other side of West Broadway, and with it came a general change from marble, limestone, and cast iron to brick, and from Italianate style to Romanesque Revival with its bold arches. Except for the Western Union Building (at 60 Hudson Street) and a handful of other structures, there are few notable buildings in Tribeca dating from the years after World War I. For a time, in fact, it seemed as if the historic designation of much of the area would stifle any imaginative contemporary architecture. In recent years, however, several talented architects have blazed new trails. One was the late John Petrarca, whose works in effect happily combine yesterday and today. Examine the row of agreeable, yet totally impressive, houses he built on Reade Street just east of Greenwich. They show that Tribeca's architecture, which evolved over so many years, is still capable of intriguing change.
What's Next? With the new Freedom Tower set to deliver the Financial District (Tribeca's closest neighbor to the south) at least 1.5 million square feet of new commercial office space within the next five years, all of the potential buildings having been converted to condominiums, and prices having gone through the roof, it would seem that Tribeca is poised for a serious revival in the retail arena. With restaurants performing extremely well (thanks to all the new affluent neighbors) and new retail spaces being created, this neighborhood is likely to become even more of a neighborhood in the traditional sense of the word in the very near future.