The city has some great bridges, awsome works that span the large and gentle river that flows through the city. To prevent the river from overflowing, the river bed was dredged and the river sides were given steep deep banks (50-60 degrees) of hard packed earth reinforced with stone. Decades after the project began, the city was totally safe from flooding.
In the shadow of the bridges, the poor and destitute - the "Sad Folks" - huddled. As the city thought itself properous, it took steps to keep the "sad folks" from public view. With no where else to go, they climbed down the steep sides of the new riversides. They used the workman’s and dock stairs to reach the river side. At first they stayed in the old workman’s sheds and the few docks still left.
Time passed. They made "trails" and pathways along the banks at various places. These connected their "villages" or clusters of folks. These tiny shanties slowly built up the side of the river. It was all very "polite", kept from the view of "good folk" by the steep walls. (You could only see them from the other side… but since rich people do not live near the river… due to the occasional smell… nobody of importance complains about it).
As some of the bridge builders fell on hard times (no more city money for grand projects meant all those imported masons and builders were unemployed), the villages stopped being collections of tents and ramshackle buildings. Over the years the shanties were reenforced with left over bridge materials and other scavanged materials. (They knew were everything was left by their now abandoned projects.) The squats became real buildings built into the side of the banks, with real roofs, floors, and foundations.
Bridgeshadow filled a nitche in the city. It was where all the "things not discussed" were politely kept. This is not a crime laiden area, filled with shadowy figures and assassins on the lam as some would expect due to the shadowy nature implied by the district’s name. It is a place filled with "questionable" businesses that the overly proper people of the city publically decry, yet secretly need. Bridgeshadows has a few taverns, a couple of pawn shops and money lenders, rooms of ill-repute, places where questionable vices can be satisfied, and a theater or two. In short, it is the place where all the "things polite people do not discuss" in the city can be found.
As wealth flowed into the district, the buildings along the river banks became more and more substantial. Money has purchased a bit of respectability and real "foundations". In addition to the narrow steps leading up and down the district, there are cabled carts that lead from the top and barges on the river that travel the district carrying people to and fro. There is one "cabled gondola" that crosses the river from one tavern to its made on the other bank, but that is more of a novelty than a useful mode of transportation. Now "polite" people do not live in this district, but real people, some of the quite well off, do.
It should be noted that there are few "sad people" here anymore. The increase in relative properity of the district has driven the very poor out of the district that they made. A few hang on around the edges of things, but most try their luck in other areas of the city.