First impressions are critically important, and preconceived perceptions are often difficult to shake. There likely is not a neighborhood in New York City that knows this better than West Harlem. Anyone born in the latter half of the 20th century and who is not in tune with the area thinks of it as a crime-ridden neighborhood. “Harlem has that reputation,” says Aviad Cohen, a senior salesperson at I&I Real Estate. “Everybody thinks it’s not a safe area.” Is Harlem the safest place to live in the United States? No. Crime rates, however, have dropped significantly over the last two decades, and Realtor.com is reporting that burglary and rape rates are below the national average. For those in the know, West Harlem does not represent a cesspool of delinquency, but rather a budding real estate market with improving commercial and residential developments.
The phrase “small business” is one that is gets thrown around quite a lot, almost to the point that it has become a cliché and lost its true meaning. West Harlem, though, is an area that has made a concerted effort to help its small businesses survive and thrive.
A number of local leaders founded the Harlem Business Alliance (HBA) in 1980 after they recognized that their neighborhood was left for dead, and their goal was to “establish Harlem as an economically self-sustaining community.” In 2013, the HBA made plans to use a three-year, $700,000 grant to open a support center for small businesses. The group felt it was important to help its clients “with back-office operations, including marketing, bid preparation, payroll, budgeting, and strategic planning.” The HBA’s most recent annual report says it spent 1,500 hours counseling businesses in 2014 and conducted 22 business development workshops.
Rebuilding 125th Street
The New York City Economic Development Corps. began an independent study in 2003 to determine the best way to take advantage of neighborhood development. The multi-year study led the way to a re-zoning proposal that was finally adopted in 2008. Among numerous 125th Street developments is a 100,000 square foot shopping center at the corner of 125th and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. A 2013 New York Times article says:
Anchored by a 30,000 square foot Designer Shoe Warehouse, the new development at 301 West 125th Street is directly opposite Harlem U.S.A., the pioneering retail and entertainment center that opened in 2000, giving the neighborhood its first movie theater in many years – now called the AMC Magic Johnson Theater Harlem 9 – as well as national retailers like a 35,000 square foot Old Navy store.
The same article goes on to say, “Half a block to the east, the developers of Harlem U.S.A., Grid Properties and the Gotham Organization, are putting up a $14 million, three-story retail building at 269 West 125th Street, next to the Apollo Theater, which will includes a Red Lobster, also new to the neighborhood.”
A search on OLR for new condo developments in West Harlem shows eight that are currently in progress. Three are new conversions, four are new constructions, and one is a pre-construction. They include:
- 23 West 126th Street (The Adeline) – 12 floors/83 units/$1,250 per square foot.
- 240 Manhattan Avenue (One Morningside Park) – 22 floors/55 units/$1,391 per square foot.
- 1890 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (The Strathmore) – 6 floors/28 units/$772 per square foot.
Recent Deals in West Harlem
West Harlem, like practically every other part of Manhattan, has the ability to attract some high-profile names. Two recent ones includes:
- Don Lemon – the CNN anchor bought a second condo at 2280 Frederick Douglass Boulevard back in 2014. He paid more than $860,000 for the apartment and had already owned the unit next door.
- Alex Trebek – the longtime host of Jeopardy! recently purchased a $1.92 million townhouse for his 25 year-old son. The listing address is 310 West 140th Street.