Angels of Harlem

A once run-down and dangerous part of New York is being transformed into the city's latest hotspot says Lucie Green

Harlem, with its wealth of cultural history, abundance of oversized brownstone town houses, and convenient transport links, has evolved past its previously dubious reputation into a desirable hotspot for many wealthy young professionals, families, and ambitious developers to invest and relocate. Steven Goldschmidt of the New York estate agency Warburg Realty comments: "People are attracted to Harlem for its beautiful housing stock, with many family-sized residences that are not as readily available in other locations. Other factors include the strong property values and long history. There is excellent transportation, easy access to mass transit and local highways and good services."

Mainstream attention is also fuelling this. Bill Clinton recently moved his offices up there; celebrities such as Roberta Flack and Samuel L Jackson have town houses there, and now Marriott, the hotel giant, is to build a hotel complex with retail outlets, condos, parking and spa facilities in the near future. (Rumour has it the hip W hotel chain is to follow in its footsteps with a competitive $103m proposal for a nearby project.)

In addition, cultural landmarks such as the Apollo Theatre are being renovated, and the newly transformed Art Deco Lenox Lounge jazz club has re-opened for business serving classic soul food. The Studio Museum of Harlem has provided a focus to the Harlem art scene, while new fashionable venues such as The Sugar Hill Bistro, Amy Ruth's and Jimmy's Uptown nightclub, continue to flourish and attract the upwardly mobile, hipsters and celebrities alike.

"There is nothing 'unusual' about Harlem any more," says Goldschmidt. "The signs of gentrification can't be missed, from local cafés and bistros, to the appearance of large, national, brand-name stores."

"In New York now there isn't really an area that's 'out' per se," adds Lisa Simonsen, vice president at élite agency Corcoran. "Everywhere is hot. Before it was much more the haves and have-nots at 96th St; that was your cut off. It's not like that any more. In Harlem there's so many luxury condominiums that have gone up just even in the last year, and continue to go up, particularly on Central Park North. That's a super hot spot, but there are a lot of new developments also.

"You're looking at $800 a square foot now, and it used to be $200-300, maybe even less. Brownstones are going for $1.6m or more. There's just a lot of people I think who previously would have had to move out of the city, now looking to Harlem as an alternative. It's getting pricier admittedly, but you can actually buy a house, whereas that's usually the price of an average two-bed condo downtown. That's a big difference - a house or a two-bed condo!" Indeed, the price of a town house in Greenwich Village alone ranges from $5m-12m.

These areas are also offering lucrative opportunities for buy-to-let investors. "One of Harlem's prototypical developments are purchasers of four-six unit properties who rehab the apartments, retaining one or two for their own personal use, and selling the rest as condominiums at substantial profit. This structure enables an enterprising purchaser to recoup his own costs and continue owning and living in the property," says Goldschmidt.

Simonsen is also witnessing similar activity. "Brownstone town houses can be anything up to 500,000 sq ft, depending on the width. In lots, people buy a whole one, and just split it into two duplexes."

Regeneration of these recognised Harlem hotspots such as Sugar Hill, Central Park North and Strivers Row, has meant that despite scope for still considerable profit, the onus has shifted to newer territories for larger investment gains: namely Spanish Harlem. This area has been slower to catch up due to the poorer transport links on the East Side, but now looks set for a similar invasion. "Parts of the East Side corridor have been hampered by the existence of just one Subway line, as opposed to several lines serving the West Side. However, plans to complete the new Second Ave subway have spurred new development in East Harlem," says Simonsen.

She adds: "Prices in Harlem are getting so high now, that there always has to be that next step. There's limited space in New York, but I can definitely see it happening in Spanish Harlem, just because Harlem is no longer cheap. It's a slow process though.

"That area's just not as gentrified - there are a lot more beggars. So you don't feel like it's 'turning' as such yet when you're there. But a lot of people think it will, and it makes sense that it will, just because of where it's located."

Spanish Harlem (otherwise known as El Barrio) is located between the East river and Central Park, between 100th and 125th St. It boasts a range of similar historical town houses, and remains in the early stages of gentrification. Town houses here, if renovated, fetch up to $1.5m, but you can still buy an entire building with four floors for under $700,000.

And if this is still too expensive? New York magazine, ever ahead of the game, has pointed to Bushwick, Queens, as a future des-res neighbourhood. The July issue boasted a "Queens 50" feature, which presented a tongue-in-cheek guide to the top 50 things to do in the district, before the Starbucks tidal wave takes hold.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution