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Mentioned in this Article:
Stephen G. Kliegerman

Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing

Jill Sloane

Jill Sloane
Westside Office

Wall Street Journal

West 116th Street Posts Gains But Slowly

By MELANIE LEFKOWITZ
A cluster of new businesses and ventures, many of them anchored by large condominium buildings, is drawing more shoppers and residents to a slowly gentrifying stretch of West 116th Street in Harlem.

My Image Studios, a 20,000-square-foot entertainment venue and African and Latino-themed cultural center, plans to open on the ground floor of the Kalahari condominium building at 40 W. 116th St. this summer. Inside 1400 Fifth Ave., at the corner of 116th Street, more new businesses are expected or have opened, including a lounge known as Bleu Violin, and BBRAXTON, an upscale men's salon that reopened in the space last year.

Meanwhile, more development is planned for the thoroughfare, a wide two-way street six blocks north of Central Park.

L+M Development Partners, which built the Kalahari Condominiums, hopes to begin construction within a few months on two new buildings: a proposed 85-unit building on West 116th, across the street from the Kalahari, and a mixed-income building with about 110 "affordable" rentals on West 117th, says Stephen Kliegerman, president of Halstead Property Development Marketing, who is working with L+M.

"It's so convenient to Midtown Manhattan and the Upper East and Upper West sides, it's kind of a natural extension of both those neighborhoods," Mr. Kliegerman says. "We continue to see better and better retail filling in as there's more and more residential activity."

The developers are also planning to include retail space in the new construction, and are talking to "some pretty high-profile retailers," Mr. Kliegerman added.

Central Harlem has been seeing a boom in recent years, brokers and developers say, as more and more lower Manhattanites are drawn by new luxury development, an increasing number of restaurants and higher-end shops and relatively low prices.

According to data from StreetEasy.com, the median sales price for homes in Central Harlem in the fourth quarter was $481,680, essentially unchanged from the same quarter in 2010. By comparison, the median sales price for all of Manhattan was $797,956 in 2011's fourth quarter, a 9.3% drop from the same period in 2010.

"We've had a lot of Upper Eastsiders, Upper Westsiders and even some from downtown moving up to Harlem because they realize they get a lot more value for the money, and many of them now realize what a fun place it is," says Karen Shenker, a senior vice president and associate broker with Corcoran Group, who lives in the Kalahari.

The Kalahari and other new buildings, including the 32-unit Graceline Court, at 106 W. 116th, both of which opened in 2008, have brought more activity to the street. Yet West 116th has been more resistant to transformation than the intersecting stretch of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which has seen a surge of popular and upscale shops and restaurants, such as Harlem Tavern, a restaurant and beer garden, and Harlem Shambles, a boutique butcher shop that opened late last year.

West 116th "reminds me of the old 14th Street…the mixture of old ethnic cultures and mid- to lower-range retail stores," says Nobu Otsu, who moved his five-year-old Harlem wine shop, the Winery, about a block from Frederick Douglass to West 116th about 18 months ago. Though Mr. Otsu still considers Frederick Douglass, where he plans to open a sushi restaurant later this year, a more appealing strip for retail, he anticipates improvement.

"I wouldn't expect 116th Street to be the same as Frederick Douglass Boulevard, but I would say that street will be a much more refined and pleasant place to shop," he says. "That's going to happen, absolutely. As with 14th Street, it's getting to be a much nicer shopping street."

Brenda Braxton, who reopened BBRAXTON last year after temporarily closing for financial and personal reasons, says that although her business has grown as the area develops, she may have to relocate because gentrification has not kept pace with rising rents.

"A lot of new buildings are going up and a lot of businesses are coming up, but I've also seen a lot of business come and go," she says, including the Ginger restaurant, also formerly in 1400 Fifth Ave. "The main challenge is that the rents are so high, and there aren't enough upscale clients just yet in order to keep it going."

If you're browsing for a home (graphic):

$599,000

2098 Frederick Douglass Blvd, No. 4F

Property Plus: Full-service modern building, three blocks from Central Park

Property Minus: Apartment doesn't have a view

Listing Agent: Jill Sloane of Halstead Property

Friday, February 17, 2012