Things That Make You Go Ugh: Why Are Developers Trying To “Rebrand” Harlem Into “SoHa”?

May 30, 2017  |  

There are just some places you shouldn’t mess with, and Harlem is one of them.

Harlem, SoHa

According to NY1, there is a push by developers, real estate agents and businesses to rebrand the areas from 110th to 125th street into SoHa. This is being done to make the South Harlem area sound as trendy as SoHo (which stands for South of Houston street) in an effort to get more places and spaces sold and rented. But when it comes to trying to mess with the name and culture of the place that is known for the Harlem Renaissance, Apollo Theater, the Langston Hughes house and other very Black things, well, residents are understandably irritated. They’re also understandably worried that such moves by real estate folks (particularly an agency called Keller Williams that has a space on 115th and reportedly has a “SoHa team”) will have an impact on Black residents, who may be forced out to make way for wealthy Whites and hipsters. So protests have begun, and a press conference was even held last week.

“How dare someone try to rob our culture, and try to act as if we were not here, and create a new name, a new reality as if the clock started when other people showed up?” said state Senator-Elect Brian Benjamin at the press conference last Wednesday.

Harlem is a name that carries a lot of weight, and it’s a place that helped to bring us a slew of people and things that have had a major influence on the culture. To refer to it as SoHa to attract a new type of resident is gag-worthy. However, it’s something that’s been going on for quite some time uptown.

A New York Times article from 1999 made the first mentions of this new nickname, which they said was brought about due to a new influx of nightlife and hangout spots uptown. That included a bar actually called SoHa that opened in 1997 on Amsterdam and 108th. Basically, it’s been a long time coming:

In the last few years, the 10 blocks south of the Columbia and Barnard campuses — from 116th to 106th Streets, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue — have undergone a transformation. At least a dozen new restaurants and bars have opened in the last two years alone, some of them designed to attract undergraduates, but many catering to an older, more sophisticated crowd of Upper West Siders ambling north for their nights out. As a result, there’s a dynamic convergence of baby strollers and textbook-toting teen-agers, longtime residents and bespectacled graduate students, all making their way to a once-desolate stretch of town.

What was once allegedly “desolate” now seems to be jumping. Therefore, people are jumping at the chance to start trying to stake claim and make changes. Sad, but what’s new? #gentrificationgonewild


Image via Getty

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