Tod Volpe was instrumental in the development of New York City’s SoHo district as an international center for high style art, fashion, and entertainment.
When Tod and his cousin Vance Jordan opened their ‘theater for art’ in the 1970′s at 457 West Broadway, SoHo was a cultural wasteland with artists living in lofts in the decaying buildings, serviced by only a few local restaurants, but virtually nothing else.
Tod, who graduated with honors from New York University, could have had his pick of any loft space up and down the block for 1,500 dollars a month. He chose 457 West Broadway because of its central location and open façade. With an open parking area next door, Tod recognized this would be an ideal environment to launch New York’s impending downtown cultural revolution.
Forming alliances with pioneer dealers Ivan Karp, Leo Castelli and Holly Solomon, the Jordan Volpe Gallery became a destination for uptown collectors, investors and shoppers looking for beauty and new inspiration. Through advertising, blockbuster art shows and theatrical drama, Tod created the buzz that drew the uptown crowds to Bohemia at a time when no one could think of a reason to venture below 14th Street.
Once the Jordan Volpe Gallery became recognized through the media for its unique, cutting edge approach to presenting art, it became clear that something extraordinary was happening within this ten block radius (Houston to Canal). The area soon began buzzing with excitement, and commercial real estate started to boom. Storefronts were transformed from boarded-up factory façades into fashionable bookstores, dress shops, eateries and other high-end art galleries.
Soon Rizzoli opened across the street, then Robert Marc, followed by Chanel, Ralph Lauren and other high end merchandising stores. Dean & Deluca, which began on Prince Street off the corner of West Broadway as a simple closet-sized sandwich shop, turned into a New York City empire. Restaurants, such as Raoul’s, became world-famous instead of local hangouts for actors and artists.
Today, a loft space in this area goes for 15 million per floor, quite the difference from $30,000 it would have taken to purchase an entire building. Thanks to the pioneering efforts and vision of Tod Volpe and his colleagues, SoHo now ranks as a world-renowned cultural and commercial hotspot in the world’s greatest city.