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Evolution of the (Silicon) Bowery

I titled this blog “Silicon Bowery” because my company, Indaba Music, has been located on the Bowery in lower Manhattan since 2006. We have space in a renovated building that used to be a flophouse called The Windsor Hotel. For those who don’t know, the Bowery is a historic area at the intersection of the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Soho, Noho and Nolita. For many years throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s it was a high crime area, and earlier in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was a hotbed fornew immigrant communities (see The Gangs of New York for a dramatized account of the area).

When we moved in above a Bowery restaurant supply company in 2006 the adjoining Soho neighborhood was already filled with digital agencies and a number of creative start ups. And since then, we’ve seen the arrival of Whole Foods, Pulinos (a great Italian restaurant from the owner of Balthazar), The swanky Bowery Hotel, and the New Museum of Modern Art. There are even some snazzy art galleries now mixed in among the restaurant supply shops and the Bowery Mission, our local homeless shelter. And of course, great venues like The Bowery Poetry Club are still around. Unfortunately, we also saw the departure of famed CBGB across the street, and its replacement by a John Varvatos store.

For the first time, I really feel like a real tech community is coalescing around the Bowery. This year, Foursquare took office space in the old Village Voice building up the street towards Cooper Union. Scratch DJ Academy took space in the same building. And an unidentified start up has taken up residence in a building across the street from Indaba. We don’t know who they are, but they look young and tech savvy. We are attempting to communicate via hand signals and carrier pigeon. And today, J.J. and I were leaving the office and overheard a young man say the words “Amazon Web Services” into his iPhone as he nearly tripped over a homeless man. I don’t know which company he works for, but I know he’s part of the increasingly silicon Bowery.