THE spotlight grew brighter on Harlem after former President Bill Clinton took offices on the top floor of one of 125th Street’s best office buildings and Rao’s Italian eatery in East Harlem regularly started showing up on Page Six.

While the former President’s presence hasn’t caused a slew of private businesses to follow, it has reinvigorated pride in the neighborhood. There’s also been a boom in pricier shops and national retailers.

“There is still good strong demand from governmental agencies and non-profits,” said Ross Jacobs, a principal of Cogswell Realty which owns Clinton’s office building at 55 W. 125th Street and another at 215 W. 125th. “When they get here, the employees of tenants are finding it’s better than they thought it was.” There are plenty of shops, a plethora of restaurants in a slew of price ranges from Subway to Sylvia’s, and an vista full of eye candy that reaches from the greenery of Central Park to the historical architecture that is abundant at every turn. Once numerous vacant parcels and eyesores are magically vanishing as market conditions make it profitable for developers to use well-designed government programs to rehabilitate older properties and create affordable new ones.

Harriet Tubman Gardens, an eight-story, 73-unit market

rate cooperative developed without any direct subsidies, held its ribbon cutting opening ceremony in late July.

Located at 2235 Frederick Douglass Boulevard between West 120th and West 121st Streets on formerly vacant lots, the project was developed by The Bluestone Organization, and created through the city’s Cornerstone program administered by The New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Sales prices ranged from $129,439 to $167,300 while homebuyers could earn no more than 250 percent of the area median income. Almost 40 percent of the units were sold to those already living in Harlem.

“The market in Harlem is still very active for certain types of offerings,” said Vie Wilson, a vice president of the Corcoran Group. “For the Plain Jane person who has the money and can get the financing, not everything is available because most new developments are subsidized and have income caps. That’s why my phone doesn’t stop ringing [for those that want the new condominiums at Sugar Hill]. There is not enough supply of market rate housing for the demand.”

Many individuals from all parts of the city are choosing Harlem as their home because their dollars simply go further. Brokers say townhouses that are mere shells run between $550,000 and $750,000 while those all dolled up fetch north of $1 million.

One 121th Street townhome beauty recently sold for more than $2 million, said Elizabeth L. Martin, president of E.L. Martin.

“Buyers are Caucasian to African-American people looking for value and more space and more affordable living,” Martin said. “They want a little diversity and to take advantage of having more space for the dollar. There is no place now in the city that is undesirable.”

The Eliza condominium at Frederick Douglas Blvd. and 112th Street has just six, high-end two-bedroom, two-bath residences that sold out for asking prices from $475,000 to $600,000.

Martin is listing its commercial condo of 800 square feet for $450,000. “It’s perfect for doctors or a small non-profit. It is a choice in the type of ownership that you would not have seen three years ago.”

Sugar Hill is a ten unit condominium in Hamilton Heights created through the gut rehabilitation of a pre-war apartment building and was just brought to market in late July by Corcoran Group Vice President, Vie Wilson. Located at 146th Street and Convent Avenue, the two-bedroom will be ready for occupancy at the end of this year and have a selling price between

$339,000 to nearly $500,000.

Wilson is also selling the former Parkway Hospital on Central Park North just off Lenox Ave. at 123-25 W. 110th Street for current owners, Hale House. Wilson expects the building to be sold for about $6 million to a

developer. But interest has already been expressed by at least one private individual who wants it for a home.

Harlem is also boasting the first green ecologically friendly and multi-income condominiums in the state known as 1400 on 5th. Developed by

Full Spectrum, the units are eligible for certain New York State green energy credits.

Preferences for middle income units were given to local residents, then police officers and the visually impaired, but market rate units will be sold for up to $700,000 and applicants can still join the waiting list.

Malcolm Shabazz Development Corp. is sponsoring a 38-unit rental development by Alan Friedberg – known for the Parc Vendome on 57th Street – that will sit on the north side of 116th Street just east of Fifth Ave. The six-story property will include some retail stores and should be ready to rent by the fall of 2004, Friedberg said.

At Park Avenue and 125th Street a national chain hotel is already on the drawing boards.

The Harlem retail revolution was kicked off with the opening of Harlem USA on West 125th Street and national retailers like Disney and Old Navy.

Now, nearly every block has seen a resurgence and redevelopment, from the Magic Johnson movie theater, to major Staples and many more, willing to pay as much as $150 a foot for the privilege of selling goods and services to Harlem visitors and residents.

Developers such as Forest City Ratner are creating new office space that is quickly being snapped up by government agencies.

Additionally, Blumenfeld Development’s long stalled East River Plaza retail mall has started to become a reality with the demolition of the former Washburn Wire Factory next to the FDR Drive at 116th Street.

Along the Hudson River, work will begin this fall on the revitalization of the Harlem Piers between 125th and 135th Streets.

This is the first phase of the West Harlem Master Plan to create accessibility and beautify the waterfront area with plantings, small shops, a visitor’s center and restaurant.


In the 20s the “Big Apple” referred to the New York racetrack, considered the top track. Travelling musicians used it to describe Harlem, jazz capital of the world.