Re-examining the Soho Effect

07/21/2010 4:00 AM |

The reality is that this kind of thing is old hat in Manhattan and Zar Properties isn't doing much different than centuries of deep-pocketed landlords have done before them. After all their job description includes one thing above all others—to make more money.

Similarly, the "Soho Effect" is largely a concept that relates to finding ways to increase the value of disused or depressed real estate. Artists are less a focus of the idea than a means to an end. Their persistence in the spaces they reshape is not really part of the equation, and Soho is now a shining example of that fact.

Unwilling to call it quits, the Ohio Theatre will in fact carry on, as Ohio Interrupted at a very different downtown performing arts organization, 3LD, located just south of the World Trade Center site at 80 Greenwich Street. Press releases about the new partnership were sent out just a few weeks ago announcing that Lyons had signed on to produce work at 3LD for the next 3 years. Fortunately for both parties, the MTA rescinded an eviction notice against 3LD at just about the same time as the Ohio's new plan was unveiled.

3LD, like a couple of other Lower Manhattan arts organizations such as Dance New Amsterdam (which is deep in arrears on their rent payments to the tune of over $500,000), were offered money and special deals by the city to come into the area not long after the World Trade Towers fell in order to help repair and revitalize the area. The city recognized then that these groups could help at a time when many felt that the area surrounding the World Trade Center was not only unwelcoming but also unlivable. Now that things have changed for downtown and the original funds for the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan have started to dry up, the city isn't as interested in either the artistic products or the patronage that these organizations bring to the area, so it has apparently stopped caring about their fate. This is another telling example of artists being used as a means to an end that, once achieved, no longer involves the means.

When I asked Robert Lyons about the situation he and the Ohio will be in at 3LD, he put it fairly plainly: "I'm either entering into a great opportunity to help stabilize the situation or I'm headed out on a ship like the Titanic."