Vibrant, historic, sprawling, frustrating: Harlem, whether east, west, or central, has long been one of our favorite neighborhoods-to-watch. Despite popular misconceptions, Harlem is not homogeneous. In fact, Harlem (including East Harlem) is the single largest neighborhood in Manhattan, and as such has a wide range of housing, restaurants, entertainment, etc. And prior to the economic downturn, Harlem development was on a roll, with new condos and rental apartments, stores, hotels, office buildings and more being planned and built.
Speaking of, the housing stock–especially, of course, in areas like Strivers Row and Sugar Hill–is often beautiful. Transportation to points south, for work or play, is more convenient than you’d expect; the retail, restaurant, and nightlife options have only been getting better and better; and the price (both for sale and rent) for Harlem apartments–and the space you get for that price–remains attractive. Two bits of news of this week only added to our general Harlem boosterism.
The first involves the long-discussed retro-fitting of the residential housing complex Lenox Terrace in Central Harlem, a proposal to turn one of those neighborhood-busting “superblocks” that planners favored during the Urban Renewal years into a strong community. The plan, by architects at Davis Brody Bond Aedas, would include a number of contemporary-looking glass rental towers of varying heights.
The plan includes plenty of new street-level storefronts which, in addition to providing services to the residents, also help to illuminate the sidewalks at night; below-ground parking and grassy fields where empty lots now sit. The concept is similar to ones being successfully implemented in other parts of Manhattan, recently and notably with the Columbus Square complex in the West 90s, but so far zoning issues (the towers are bit too high) have put the proposal on hold. Fingers crossed here at Urban Edge that they get it together soon.
In other Harlem development news, two long-vacant properties along the neighborhood’s world-famous 125th Street have finally been purchased by private developers: the one-time Taystee Bakery site between Amsterdam and Morningside Avenues will become CREATE @ Harlem Green, a 328,000-square-foot office and industrial complex designed to entice creative companies and small manufacturers; and the landmark Corn Exchange building near Park Avenue (above) will be renovated, gain six floors (for a total of 31,000 square feet), the whole thing turned into office and retail space. Granted, neither of these grand-sounding commercial spaces will be used for Harlem apartments for rent, but they certainly will attract always-welcome jobs and money to the neighborhood.
These projects, along with others recently announced, point to the continuation of a 21st century Harlem Renaissance, this one being driven by development.