By  on October 16, 2006

NEW YORK — Just two years ago, the prognosis for retailing in SoHo seemed uncertain.

The iconic lower Manhattan neighborhood gained fame for its funky art galleries and residential lofts in the Eighties, which morphed into commercial activity in the Nineties. But there were hard times after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the nearby World Trade Center and recovery was challenging.

Although the opening of Bloomingdale's on Broadway in 2003 generated traffic on that shopping thoroughfare, "For Rent" signs abounded on side streets such as Spring and Wooster.

But that was then. Now, with an influx of international tenants, SoHo has regained its business vibrance. There is that elusive element called buzz.

The neighborhood is a United Nations of cultures and colors. Spanish designer Angela Ruiz de la Prada's exuberantly colored banner flutters above 35 Wooster Street, and the Canadian chain Parasuco has a cavernous store in a former bank on Spring Street showcasing sexy jeans. Paris-based Kiki de Montparnasse's boutique at 79 Greene Street combines upscale lingerie with erotic objects, British designer Alice Temperley occupies a second-floor loft on Broome Street, and Marni's charming designs beckon from a futuristic space at 116 Mercer Street.

M Missoni and Reiss have planted flags on West Broadway, Tokyo's A Bathing Ape opened at 91 Greene Street, and Morgane Le Fay's sells her romantic designs from a Wooster Street boutique. These are just some of the foreign names that have ventured into the area.

"Post-Sept. 11, there was a glut of space, and that lasted a few years," said Beth Greenwald, a retail broker at Newmark Knight Frank. "Interior SoHo suffered the most. Now there's a different roster of players."

The district has turned the corner in the last 12 months, broker Joel Isaacs said.

"Retailers are focusing a lot of attention on SoHo now...early in 2006 there was still a lot of space available," he said.

Interest is being generated by reports that retailers such as Intermix at 98 Prince Street, which sells international designers like Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld and McQ by Alexander McQueen, are doing strong business. "They hear that buzz," said Karen Bellantoni, a broker at Robert K. Futterman Associates. "They want to get into that action, too."

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