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Mentioned in this Article:
Stephen G. Kliegerman

Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing

Sidney Whelan

Sidney Whelan
Westside Office

The Real Deal

Inside The Open Houses Of Harlem

Big apartments in short supply

This month, Tracy McNamara drops in on open houses in Harlem

Developers are responding to buyers who want to live large and spend their Harlem nights -- or days -- in properties with bigger units.

Apartments in Harlem are typically small, with two-bedrooms rarely more than 800 square feet. To draw buyers with families, developers of the Lenox, the Normandie and Casa Loma are offering larger units.

The Lenox, a new 77-unit condominium at 380 Lenox Avenue and 129th Street developed by Uptown Partners, has two-bedroom apartments that range from 1,174 to 1,868 square feet and start at $501 per square foot. The Normandie, a conversion at 100 West 119th Street and Lenox Avenue, represented by Halstead, features three- and four-bedroom pre-war residences in a 24-hour doorman building. Penthouse and sixth-floor units are priced over $1 million.

Since many of these new large apartments cost more than the average apartment in Harlem, the question is: Will buyers spend more to live in the neighborhood, which extends from 110th Street to 155th Street, from the East River to Manhattan and St. Nicholas avenues?

The average price per square foot for co-ops and condos in Harlem is $647, compared to $618 last year, according to appraiser Miller Samuel. The average sales price is $698,078, compared to $687,243 last year.

"There are big spaces to find in Harlem, but they are very expensive for the Harlem apartment buyer -- well over $1 million," said Sid Whelan, lead sales agent for the Langston, a 180-unit luxury building at 68 Bradhurst Avenue between West 145th and 146th streets.

Developers are hoping buyers will feel more comfortable investing millions in Harlem now that Columbia University plans to extend its boundaries from 129th to 133rd streets and from Broadway to 12th Avenue. It would also add three new properties from 131st to 134th streets on the east side of Broadway. The expansion is expected to spur further residential development and encourage new businesses to open, changes brokers say are needed. Last month, Elizabeth Steele, associate broker at Warburg Realty, told The Real Deal that the expansion is "bringing life to a lot of dead areas and giving new businesses reason to open and create spaces."

At Casa Loma, a condominium conversion at 229 West 116th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, 10 units out of 15 are scheduled to close this month, and two other apartments are in contract. In the immediate neighborhood, there is a C-Mart grocery store, a post office and a tae kwon do gym directly across the street, as well as a few low-rise residential buildings.

Warburg Realty sales associate Ellen Shandalow said the building is popular because the apartments are large. A 1,007-square-foot two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom apartment is listed at $789,000, and the 885-square-foot one-bedroom is listed at $650,000.

The building's amenities are comparable to those at many new developments in Harlem, such as storage units for tenants and a common roof garden. There is a video intercom rather than a doorman.

Apartments there are notably stylish; however, two recent open houses for a two-bedroom and a one-bedroom attracted only a few potential buyers.

Those buyers spent some time admiring the exposed brick walls, oak floors and open kitchens with stainless steel appliances.

A married couple in their 30s, Jeff and Rebecca, who did not want to give their last name because Jeff's family is in the real estate industry, bicycled to the open house. They said they have been looking in Harlem because they want more space. Currently, the couple lives in a one-bedroom on the Upper West Side.

They also crave outdoor space so are only interested in unit 6A, which has a small private balcony with French doors that open into the living room.

"The neighborhood has changed a lot, and it's going to change more, so I think it's fairly priced to get people in," said Jeff. "I'm impressed with what they did [in terms of style], and I like the roof with the recycled rubber floor. I'm not sure there is enough outdoor space for us, though."

Another potential buyer, Dganit Avital, 43, said she is looking for a one-bedroom in Harlem because she loves how the low-rise neighborhood feels less crowded than the rest of Manhattan.

"I fell in love with Harlem, and I like this building because it has an elevator and is mostly accessible. I'm very comfortable here and love [seeing] the clear sky, so I've been looking in the neighborhood," said Avital, who currently lives in a one-bedroom on West 15th Street. "I also like the layout of the rooms."

For buyers seeking one-bedrooms, there is a condominium at 130 Lenox Avenue between 116th and 117th streets listed at $340,000. Corcoran broker Shebrelle Hunter-Green said the apartment was unusual for Harlem because of its size: 800 square feet. She said it is hard to find a one-bedroom with 800 square feet in Harlem, since it is rare for even two-bedrooms in the neighborhood to be that large. There was one accepted offer, but the buyer rescinded it a few weeks ago.

The unit has a renovated kitchen and bathroom, and the full-service building has a 24-hour concierge, valet parking, playground, common courtyard and storage. The ground-floor retail space features a bank and supermarket. The 2 and 3 subway lines are steps away. Despite the amenities and services, the open houses for this apartment were sparsely attended.

For those looking for large spaces in Harlem, a townhouse has been the traditional option. A recent weekday open house at 224 West 132nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues drew two couples, one of whom said they were priced out of the Upper West Side, where they currently reside.

The 3,400-square-foot, four-story townhouse listed at $1,575,000 sits on a quiet, tree-lined townhouse block in central Harlem. There is an owner's duplex combining the garden and parlor floors. The garden floor has a recently renovated eat-in kitchen that leads to a grassy garden, and the parlor floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom with a large Jacuzzi. The two one-bedroom apartments on the upper floors are in good shape with tenants paying monthly rents of $1,400 and $1,500. The house has original details, including door and ceiling moldings, and a wood-burning fireplace in the owner's duplex.

The open house for this unit was the first open house in Harlem that Murray Nossel, a film director, and David Hoos, a doctor and professor, visited. They said they enjoy the area and the promise of more space.

"It's space versus amenities. We're moving because we need more space," said Hoos, who now lives in a one-bedroom on 103rd Street and Riverside Drive and is hoping to spend less money on a townhouse to completely renovate it to his liking. "In a way, this is too renovated."

Nossel agreed the property wasn't a good fit, but for different reasons. He said the house didn't speak to him because he didn't like the layout of the space.

"To me the price seems high, and the flow didn't feel natural," Nossel said, pointing out that the garden floor ceilings were lower than those on the parlor floor.

Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Persia Walker said the house doesn't appeal to everyone but will win over someone who understands the history of townhouses in Harlem and appreciates the neighborhood.

"Each street in Harlem is like a village. There are block associations and people take care of each other's kids, know when someone's sick, know who lives in each home," said Walker, who pointed out the charm of the house's uneven, but sturdy, wooden stairs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007