THE free commuter ferries leaving Central Station in Amsterdam and heading north across the IJ (pronounced Eye) harbor are invariably packed with local designers, food lovers and film buffs. They brace themselves against the cold wind, steady their bikes, and look expectantly toward a structure that resembles a shiny white spaceship.
That building is actually the Eye Film Institute (IJpromenade 1, 31-20-5891400; eyefilm.nl), Amsterdam's latest architectural bauble. Designed by the Vienna-based firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, the film museum and archive opened in April in North Amsterdam, a large district that for decades was considered a grim no man's land.
"Ten years ago, the people from Amsterdam used to think of us North Amsterdamers as half-naked people who chase each other around with sticks," said Adri Doorneveld, a tourism adviser to the district who has lived in the area for more than 40 years. "They thought we were still living in the Middle Ages. Now North Amsterdam is the new creative center."
North Amsterdam's evolution from blue-collar industrial area to red-hot art neighborhood was not a swift one. In the mid-'80s, its NDSM wharf went broke and had to shut down, leaving a shipyard and harborfront that fell to squatters and criminals. But in 1997, the City Council gave the shipyard over to artists, and soon afterward, several buildings were turned into affordable studios.
Gradually a few pioneering restaurants arrived, including Noorderlicht (NDSM Plein 102; 31-20-492-2770; noorderlichtcafe.nl), which opened in 2006 in a hangar-like structure, and Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10 H; 31-20-636-5170; hoteldegoudfazant.nl), which arrived the same year. Then in 2007 MTV Networks Benelux moved its headquarters to the area -- a behemoth of a corporate presence that could have polished the neighborhood's rougher edges. But North Amsterdam has retained its grittiness.
The creative professionals who live and work there would not have it any other way. "It's loaded with open spaces where wild entrepreneurs can start their own business," said Elien van Riet, the community manager for the NDSM and ilovenoord (ilovenoord.nl), a news site for the neighborhood. "There's a lot of raw energy here."
When the furniture designer Pepe Heykoop found a studio in the southwest edges of the neighborhood about four years ago, he appreciated the "Blade Runner"-esque atmosphere. "I've got car wrecks and rabbits running around in front of my studio," he said.
These days there are fewer rabbits and more restaurants. Not far from the Nooderlicht is Pllek (NDSM; 31-6-49-386-338; pllek.nl), a chill-out station and vegan-focused cafe made of shipping containers, sand and repurposed boats that recently opened on the IJ. The new Noorderparkkamer (Floraparkweg 1; 31207370457; noorderparkkamer.nl), a wooden pavilion in a park that features a cafe on one side and a stage on the other, draws a mixed crowd of old-school locals, artists and plugged-in mainlanders.
And several cafes have popped up on Van der Pekstraat, a developing street just north of the Eye Film Institute. It is home to the smoothie joint and vintage shop Curious Orange (Van der Pekstraat 40; 31-653-103-738), the Italian bistro Il Pecorino (Van der Pekstraat 2; 31-20-737-1511; ilpecorino.nl), and the just-opened Cafe Modern (Meidoornweg 2; 31-20-4940684; modernamsterdam.nl), a bright midcentury-inspired dining room beneath what will be the area's first boutique hotel, from Niels Wouters, the owner of Hotel de Goudfazant. When the rooms are complete early next year, restaurant guests will be able to sleep over in one of the four rooms or the spacious loft that sleeps six -- inspired by and named for Dutch designers like Maarten Baas, Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk.
Next up: the entrepreneur and real estate developer Edwin Kornmann Rudi is getting ready to renovate one of the area's iconic old harbor cranes into a three-suite, 500-euro-a-night (about $640) design hotel with towering glass elevators that should open in the spring.
"People who have a vision have an opportunity in Amsterdam North," Mr. Kornmann Rudi said.travel
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.