Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing
By MAX GROSS
Which came first: The luxury condos or the upscale supermarket?
This chicken-and-egg question comes up just about every time an NYC neighborhood starts gentrifying. Homebuyers naturally prefer to have a good grocery store ready and waiting before they plunk down a deposit. But developers will tell you that if you put up quality housing stock, retail will follow organically.
Some neighborhoods, though, are fortunate enough to get both at the same time. And that’s what’s happening on Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Boulevard (a k a Eighth Avenue).
While most Harlem real estate has been faltering since the recession began in 2008 (there’s a serious glut of supply, and many buildings have cut prices dramatically), Frederick Douglass Boulevard, from 110th Street up to 125th Street, seems to be plugging along at a decent pace.
Multiple luxury condo buildings will be finished in the next few months — and they’ve been selling (maybe not for what they would have a couple of years ago, but still).
The 28-unit Parc Standard, where prices range from $375,000 to $790,000, has been on the market since December and has contracts signed or out on 20 units. The 38-unit Douglass, where prices range from $529,000 to $869,000, started sales in November and is almost 50 percent sold. In three months of sales, the 73-unit Livmor has moved 40 percent of its stock (prices go from $460,000 up to $1.21 million). Moreover, buildings that have been on the market for a while, like Soha 118, have seen buyer interest return to their open houses.
“We had three bidders on one unit,” says Yoav Haron, the developer of Soha 118, “and two bidders on another. The bidders who lost on those two units are now bidding on another. It was dead for about a year, then — boom.” That “boom” started at the beginning of the year.
This renewal in interest might have something to do with the fact that there’s also been a flood of new retail and restaurants on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
“The recession undoubtedly delayed a lot of plans,” says Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Faith Hope Consolo, but now “it’s a real neighborhood.”
In March, the neighborhood got a Best Yet Market, a supermarket that takes up three floors in Soha 118, and whose produce, meats and cheeses would look perfectly at home in a Whole Foods. And Ryan Skeen, the wunderkind chef who previously worked at Resto and Allen & Delancey, just opened 5 & Diamond with Lia Sanfilippo and Selene Martinez. This plush new eatery joins boulevard staples like Zoma (Ethiopian fare), Melba (comfort food) and Nectar (a wine bar).
Bier International, a beer garden, is set to open later in the spring. And Aloft Harlem, a 124-room hotel with $199-and-up rooms, is aiming to open in the summer.
“I’ve known the area for about 20 years,” says Eran Raitses, who owns Best Yet Market and bought two units at the Livmor with Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Dawn Tsien. “I’ve been watching slowly how it developed.”
And, so far, this influx of housing and retail appears to be successful. “Business has been very good,” Raitses says of his store. “There’s been great demand.”
“I didn’t think I was going to be in New York long-term,” says Andrew Miles, a transplant from LA, who bought a 728-square-foot one-bedroom at 2280 FDB, a building set to open this spring with units ranging from $549,000 to $1.889 million. “But this is the one community I can see myself long-term. I want to get involved in the Harlem community long-term. There’s a lot of opportunity, a lot of different activity.”
One good reason people have been attracted to the area is because prices (often in the $600- to $700-per-square-foot range) are low by Manhattan standards.
“People who are moving there are young families, empty nesters, internationals and people looking for value,” says Craig Livingston, co-developer of the Livmor.
Inventory is plentiful. Aside from the buildings already mentioned, there are two 13-unit condo buildings, Boulevard One and Two, going up between 118th and 119th Street and scheduled to be finished this summer. There’s also 220 St. Nicholas, an 11-unit building (with two retail spaces) set to open later this year.
“The competition is actually helping,” says Meredith Marshall, managing director of BRP, which is developing the Douglass. “It attracts attention to the neighborhood.”
“I’m buying for less than I would have bought for a couple of years ago,” says Gretchen Tibbits, who is selling her Upper West Side apartment and getting a 1,355-square-foot unit (with 420 square feet of outdoor space) at the Douglass. “The Upper West Side hasn’t experienced as much as a discounting as Harlem — so I looked at it as an opportunity.”
Thursday, April 08, 2010