Hamilton Heights Prime For Brooklyn-Esque Development/Investment Boom
Developers and investors are always looking for the next development powder keg. Plenty of names have been tossed around—Jamaica, Mott Haven, Hell’s Kitchen—but one Harlem neighborhood is rocketing its way to the forefront of conversation, sharing many of the same sparks as the city's greatest success story, Brooklyn.
Hamilton Heights stretches from 135th Street to 155th Street and from the Hudson River to Edgecombe Avenue. A cultural hub, the neighborhood houses the Hispanic Society Museum, the (supposedly) haunted Morris-Jumel Mansion, the Bailey Mansion (pictured, the former home of Barnum & Bailey circus founder James Anthony Bailey) and serving as an inspiration for the Sugar Hill Gang and Duke Ellington, who lived in the area and even wrote a song about taking the A subway to the 145th Street stop, which now connects to Columbus Circle in about 13 minutes.
This cultural scene has grown recently as artists and musicians have flocked to Hamilton Heights' affordable rents. Naturally, restaurants, hip retail (like this Brooklyn-style coffee shop, Chipped Cup) and young professionals priced out of Brooklyn and Midtown soon followed.
Tracking taxi data (pictured), Hodges Ward Elliott SVP Daniel Parker says he’s seen a 40% increase in 1am drop-offs, a strong sign of the neighborhood’s age demographic shift. StreetSeed design director and Harlem Collective manager Alex Tseng said he’s also seen a clear evolution from the riders on the subways from predominately locals to a mix of locals and Midtown office crowd over the last two years.
“It’s not just young professionals, but students and professors from Columbia and City College,” Alex says.
Chipped Cup barista Morgan Russell, herself an example of the 'hood's younger tenancy, says the neighborhood offered a happy medium with strong transit for her and her girlfriend, a Columbia student. The two often visit the neighborhood’s new eateries, like the Harlem Public (pictured), Bono or the Grange.
Daniel says more restaurants and retailers are on their way, and will create a patchwork of old mom-and-pop shops and trendy hotspots. More importantly, it’s a leading indicator of a Brooklyn-style boom.
“In 2010, Brooklyn had all these cool restaurants and clubs," Daniel tells Bisnow, "and young residents would invite their friends down to check it out, and those friends would be amazed that you could find such cool stuff with cheap rent."
Bohemia Realty agent Michaela Morton says she discovered the historic buildings, community gardens and waterfront breezes while visiting friends, and now focuses a majority of her work in Hamilton Heights.
Daniel says Hamilton Heights—which we believe is devoid of a catchy nickname—is in the third inning of its transition. At the moment, rents are lower than other parts of Harlem, averaging in the low $2ks for one-bedroom units, the high $2ks for two-bedrooms and low $3ks for three-bedrooms. But with rising demand, those prices are increasing rapidly, with one townhouse selling on 153rd Street selling for close to $3M.
While many residents commute on the express trains to Midtown, Hamilton Heights houses NYC’s cheapest co-working spot: The Harlem Collective (pictured), which Alex says houses 30 companies across various industries. Alex says he expects the neighborhood to attract the same scrappy TAMI tenants as Brooklyn, but for now, it’s anybody's territory to claim.
The new tenancy is also meshing with Hamilton Heights’ distinct atmosphere. Alex (pictured), for example, is well-connected to the members of his local church, and says he won’t leave unless he's priced out.
Daniel says the diverse tenancy is actually a selling point for most, and Michaela says developers have been respectful of the neighborhood’s architectural beauty (at least, so far.)
This acceptance has been mutual, with locals adapting to the new populations and re-centering businesses around them, like the newly renovated Foodtown and Mama Sushi.
Even in the “worst-case scenario,” Michaela says, the artists will simply migrate into areas like the South Bronx, causing the development cycle to start anew.