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Real estate is finally picking up again in Harlem—so we ventured to uptown to visit with Giscombe Realty Group (which manages over 500k SF in the neighborhood) to find out where the action is.
Harlem, NY
Founder Eugene Giscombe tells us that there’s an uptick in Midtown retailers venturing north, from smaller businesses like florists and dog groomers to national retailers like M.A.C. Cosmetics, which took space at 202 W 125th, and H&M, which settled at 125 W 125th St. “The haberdashers that have been here for 20 years are now being replaced by a different kind of retailer,” he says. Where there were once only three banks, there are now 19. The retailers are realizing that Harlem is part of Manhattan, he points out. Of course, there are significant discounts: instead of paying $200 to $300/SF downtown, Harlem offers $100 to $110/SF retail rents.

The Giscombe team: (top) Ronald Giscombe, Eugene Giscombe, (center) Richard Granady, Holley Drakeford, (bottom) Leona Somar, Alicia Pascual, Susan Staana, and Maxine Simmons.
The Giscombe team: (top) Ronald Giscombe, Eugene, (center)Richard Granady, Holley Drakeford, (bottom) Leona Somar, Alicia Pascual, Susan Staana, and Maxine Simmons. Restaurants are a particularly hot ticket right now, the team says. New eateries like Red Rooster sit alongside the old guard, and they’re all packed. Then comes community growth (Columbus Avenue was a wasteland in the ‘70s and landlords would only rent to restaurants, and now look at how it’s grown, Eugene says). Columbia University’s expansion and the City’s RFP to turn 125th to 127th between Second and Third into a mega-development area could only be a further boon to the area, and he predicts that stalled residential and commercial projects in the neighborhood will revive over the next 48 to 60 months and succeed. “If the financial crisis didn’t happen, there would have been three new hotels in the area,” he says, but the worst of the market is over.
1825 Park Ave, called the LEE Building
An interesting story can be found right in the walls of Giscombe’s 1825 Park Ave, also known as the LEE Building, where the firm has its own offices. Eugene has donated a year’s worth of rent to new non-profit Abyssinian Fund, which took a three-year, 542 SF lease in the building. The startup non-profit’s focus is helping coffee farmers in Ethiopia increase production and gain access to international markets through equipment and training. Eugene, who has traveled to Africa for nearly 20 years, visited Ethiopia in ‘08, where he observed the farmers at work and was impressed with their skill. The new space will help the non-profit get on its feet.