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The Bowery might sound like the last place in Manhattan where you would go to pick out a new designer suit, dine at a chic restaurant or stay in a $1,200 hotel suite. But much of the old Bowery is being swept away faster than you can say “skid row,” and new high-end offerings are on the horizon.

Developers are scrambling to turn the Bowery, which runs diagonally through the East Village and Chinatown, into the latest trendy corridor for luxury goods and entertainment.

The increased activity reflects developers’ quest to find places in Manhattan where they can build ambitious new projects. “It is like what happened in the meatpacking district,” another formerly downscale area, said Lisa Phillips, the director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which is about to open on the Bowery. “Any little pocket that was untouched is now being examined under a microscope.”

The New Museum, previously in SoHo, was in the vanguard of the transformation of the Bowery. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the directors of the museum decided to build their new 60,000-square-foot museum at 235 Bowery, between Stanton and Rivington Streets. The new New Museum will open for the first time this weekend, with 30 consecutive hours of free admission starting at noon Saturday.

The Tokyo-based architects Sejima & Nishizawa/Sanaa have designed a shimmering tower of interlocking metallic boxes resembling a giant off-kilter wedding cake. The museum building dwarfs the neighboring low-rise brick buildings, which include a vacant restaurant supply store and a padlocked budget hotel called the Sunshine Motel.

Such vestiges of the old neighborhood will probably remain for a while. There is a methadone clinic nearby, and a handful of homeless shelters are left. But several developers insist that is a good thing. They say the neighborhood’s “rough edges” attract the artists, designers and celebrities who they hope will frequent the new hotels and boutiques.

J. Alex Tarquinio
New York Times