Looking Back at a Decade of Demolition on Upper Orchard Street [PHOTOS]

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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Photo: Kevin Gannon

It was a slow death, but Ben “Sledgehammer” Shaoul finally cleared out the small businesses operating at the corner of Orchard and East Houston. A parcel for which he paid $75 million. Now, with the wrecking ball mid-swing, and ten floors of condos (plus an Equinox gym) in tow, we got to reminiscing. Yes. It’s honestly difficult to fathom the sheer decimation this small block between East Houston and Stanton has seen in the last ten years. The cycle of demolition and construction shows no signs of abatement. Shaoul’s latest luxury imagining is but the next chapter in a Lower East Side narrative hell-bent on ruining the character and charm (not to mention affordable living) of the neighborhood.

It’s time to take a step back and identify what was lost in order to attract (and placate) the gentry. For the purposes of this piece, we’re focusing on the yardage between East Houston and Stanton. However, Orchard on down to Delancey is pretty fucked, as well.

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The artist formerly known as the Thompson LES arguably set the ball in motion during the winter of 2005. A row of tenements was bulldozed to make way for Pomeranc’s phallus. The hotel spent three years under the knife and opened its doors in 2007. Rebranding transpired last year when Thompson divested from the company, forcing a name change to Sixty LES. It’s still the same old story, though.

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Razing Allen St. for the Thompson LES, circa 2005; Photo: Curbed

Almost simultaneously, death touched a solid chunk of colorful one-story businesses comprising 176-184 Orchard Street. The same fate was extended to Luna Lounge on its backside. That sizable through-block footprint was cleared to make way for the still-incomplete Hell Building, now a Hotel Indigo. Ten years later, the building is finally showing signs of completion, and should open for business in the fall. Ownership had changed hands a couple times during its run, and the original stalled-out concrete structure was itself razed. But we all know that’s just ancient history.

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Upper Orchard Street in June 2004, Photo: Curbed

While geographically on Ludlow, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the three developments that also spawned in the last decade. The Ludlow, the Ludlow Hotel, and the Rat Castle at 179 Ludlow which was finally finished this year.

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Luna Lounge pre-demolition, Photo: urban75

Speaking of the Rat Castle, there was a time, albeit briefly, when Madonna considered opening a Kabbalah center at 179 Ludlow.

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Photo: Gawker

When taken together, this assemblage of new skyline-busting developments contributed absolutely to the hyper-gentrification of the area, and arguably, the decimation of an historic part of the neighborhood.

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