When Lehman Brothers fell, it took Harlem real estate with it. The downturn, of course, stalled the entire city, but it hit north of 110th Street especially hard.
New projects lost financing, the expected local amenities and services never materialized, and people migrated back to the neighborhoods they once coveted but could not previously afford. Some real estate agencies even closed their Harlem offices.
“That was the beginning of the end in a way; a lot of people stopped and waited in the sidelines,” said Jeff Rothstein, executive vice president and director of sales and rentals in Prudential Douglas Elliman’s west side office.
But Harlem is a hottie again. The rallying economy has lifted the real estate market and, said Stephen Kligerman, executive director of Halstead Property Development Marketing, “things are very, very busy.” “We’re now where we were in 2006 and 2007,” he said. “Buyers are taking notice and [know] if they don’t buy now, they’ll be forced out of the new-home market for a few years and will come back into it without the tax abatements.”
Sidney Whelan, an agent with Halstead who lives and works in the Harlem market, said developers have responded with “a lot of really interesting projects.”
“From a design standpoint, you’ve seen tremendous evolution from those who have been working in Harlem to transcend their last achievement,” Whelan said. Another incentive? The price/value ratio. “People are looking at numbers like common charges and making decisions accordingly,” Whelan said.
And sometimes the numbers means they can afford a larger apartment, says Justin Hieggelke, a broker with The Real Estate Group. He says three-bedrooms are the hot properties here. Now, it seems the amenities will follow the crowds.
And now, it seems amenities will follow. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson opened Red Rooster, a hot new restaurant. Along Frederick Douglass Boulevard there’s a groovy Best Yet supermarket and the newly opened Aloft, a W Hotels brand, the first new hotel in the area in 40 years.
But not everyone is thrilled.Urban planner Shawn Escoffery, 37, lived in Harlem for two and a half years before moving to New Orleans. When he returned to New York last fall, he was disheartened by what he saw. “I was getting a little more discouraged by what I was seeing in terms of the demographic and feeling like it was losing something, what I knew of Harlem and what made it special,” he said. “I say that as a planner and an African-American, and knowing what I do about Harlem.
“ … [I]t’s still a fight between gentrification and redevelopment and the history of the neighborhood. The struggle is evident.”
Thinking about moving to Harlem? Here are some of the nabe's newest abodes:
PS90 (220 W. 148 St.)
On the market: Sept. 2010
A conversion of a former prewar public school, the building has 75 units ranging from studio to three-bedroom and prices ranging from $475,000 - $775,000.
Harlem Sol (121 W. 131 St. and 123 W. 131 St.)
On the market: Nov. 2010
Adjacent buildings — one a brownstone conversion and the other a townhouse with modern finishes. At No. 121, expect in the mid $400,000s for a one-bedroom and $549,000 for two. No. 123 has studios starting at $299,000.
The Douglass (2110 Frederick Douglass Boulevard)
On the market: Nov. 2009
Twenty-two of 38 units sold last year, ranging from $499,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to $954,000 for a three-bedroom penthouse. Now, pay $649,000-$839,000 for two- and three-bedrooms.
Windows on 123 (117 W. 123 St.)
On the market: April 2009
You’ll pay $535,000 to $1,245,000 for a one- to three-bedroom apartments with top-line finishes and amenities like radiant floor heating and soaking tubs.
Parc Standard (2101 Eighth Ave.)
On the market: Nov. 2009
Situated on “Renaissance Row,” the building is a mix of studios, junior lofts and one- and two-bedrooms. Ninety percent of the building sold in the mid-$300,000s – $780,000.