A panel of boosters from both neighborhoods said at a business event Wednesday that the prominent uptown neighborhood could learn a thing or two from the once-gritty downtown district now internationally known for its high-end shopping, chic nightclubs and upscale restaurants.
Lauren Danziger, the executive director of the Meatpacking District's business improvement district, said the two neighborhoods have more in common than one might think.
"You have similar businesses [in Harlem] — a lot of family-run businesses that see the neighborhood changing, and they want to be part of that," she said. "If you can tease out what your neighborhood's brand is, the sky's the limit."
Danziger spoke at the first annual Harlem Hospitality & Culinary Conference, which the community improvement association Harlem Park to Park hosted at The Studio Museum in Harlem, on West 125th Street.
Melanie Young, founder of the New York Restaurant Week promoter Connected Table, said Harlem can be branded as a hot spot the way the Meatpacking District has been.
"The businesses need to get behind the neighborhood and market it as a destination, similar to Downtown and the Meatpacking District," she said.
The vice president of City Guide, Janet Barbash, said Harlem's unique neighborhood feeling was its key draw.
"When people talk about coming to Harlem, they're talking about coming to a place that is booming and progressing and is on the move," she said.
NYC & Company vice president Nevah Assang concurred that the area's "warmth" was one of its greatest strengths.
"Once you come here, you're enveloped," she said.
Melba Wilson, the owner of the West 114th Street soul food eatery Melba's Restaurant, said Harlem and the Meatpacking District are both known for being "chic, hip and happening," but that Harlem has something special she wouldn't want it to lose.
"We would want the level of networking that the Meatpacking District businesses have," she said, "but wouldn't want to see Harlem's warmth escape."