Real Estate Is at the Heart of the Second Harlem Renaissance

A second Harlem Renaissance is underway, this time driven by an influx of money and a middle class population eager to escape the hectic life and ridiculous housing prices in the rest of Manhattan. So we decided to take a look at what the neighborhood has to offer in terms of homes and single out some market extremes.

Key findings:

  • Prices are on the rise in Central Harlem, but the biggest sale ever took place back in 2008 – $8M for a condo unit
  • The median home spans 1,000 square feet, but the range of home sizes can fit any household
  • Rentals make up more than 80% of homes, though new developments and retail make Harlem more attractive for homebuyers
  • In spite of an aging housing stock, opportunities for remodeling abound – see below for the transformation of a 19th century row house


The local context

The historically African-American neighborhood of Central Harlem is now more heterogeneous than ever – as an influx of young professionals and families of all backgrounds, in search of reasonably-priced homes and low rents, has started coming into the neighborhood and taking up some of the vacant properties left behind by those who previously moved away to escape poverty and sub-standard living. In the meantime, the commercial flourish around 125th Street has brought both new business and a new vibe to the neighborhood.

The real estate scoop

$1.75M row house is the largest home in Central Harlem

Part of the Mount Morris Park historic district, a one-family row house on tree-lined 118th Street is the largest home in Central Harlem, spanning 6,377 square feet. Originally built in 1931, it features a carved stone bay window and a decorated cornice, in line with the surrounding neoclassical architecture. This property was sold back in 1999 for the sum of $240K, and then sold again in 2004, this time for a staggering $1.75M, following a gut renovation.


A 194-square feet micro-unit fit for Manhattan

Although Harlem is regarded as a refuge for those looking for larger living spaces at affordable prices, the median home spans about 1,000 square feet – not bad for Manhattan, but still more than 200 square feet below the median across the five boroughs.

It’s no surprise, then, that the neighborhood is no stranger to units that barely qualify as studios. A case in point is this tiny condo unit measuring only 194 square feet, inside the 5-story Park Manhattan Condominium near Morningside Park, built in 1910. In 2013, when the building underwent a condo conversion, this mini-home, the smallest one in the neighborhood, was sold for $121K. And if you’re wondering what a 200 square foot floor-plan would look like, see below.

411 Manhattan Avenue #C-3 © Streeteasy


Prices are on the rise and top at $8M for a triplex penthouse

The most expensive sale ever recorded in Central Harlem involved one of the new luxurious developments sprinkled around the neighborhood. A 3,973 square feet penthouse, at the top of a glass tower on Central Park North, had the location and amenities to command a $8M sale price back in 2008.

The second largest sale was also closed in the building – a unit covering the entire 17th floor went for $6.6M in 2007. It was subsequently listed for over $9M in 2013 and 2015, but not picked up. To be honest, this area is part of Harlem in name only, and prices are closer to what can be found on the Upper East Side.


Latest big sale is also on the fringe of Central Park

Similarly, the most expensive home sold in the last 12 months is also a condo unit in a new development, situated on the southern boundary of Harlem and the Upper West Side. A penthouse covering over 2,000 square feet on the 22nd floor of the One Morningside Park condominium, this luxury home sold for $5.7M in October 2015. Below you can see some of the perks that come with this fancy address.


Oldest home in the neighborhood gets a make-over and a conversion

As elsewhere in Manhattan, Central Harlem has a fairly old residential housing stock, though significantly more new construction has taken place here in the past 15 years than in most neighborhoods on the island.

One of the oldest buildings in Central Harlem is an 1880 row house that has since been renovated and converted to a condominium holding 3 apartments, but has kept the original features of the building and added some beautiful eclectic design. The unit seen below was sold in 2013 for close to $1.4M.

Rentals outnumber owner-occupied homes 4 to 1, but influx of new retail increases neighborhood appeal

Central Harlem has one of the highest percentages of rentals in the whole of New York City – 82%! Indeed, home ownership across NYC is one of the lowest in the nation, with a city-wide average of 49%, according to NMHC. The current housing make-up in Harlem is the result of a history of poverty and limited programs encouraging private ownership of city-built housing.

A total of 9,848 homes are currently owned by their residents, of which only 589 are single- and two-family houses – a relatively low number, but commonplace for a Manhattan neighborhood. Co-op and condo units are evenly distributed, each category making up roughly half of the remaining resident-owned housing.

Office buildings are rare in this neighborhood, 38 in all, and most are concentrated along the revived 125th Street. This bustling thoroughfare has long been the heart of Harlem, yet these days there’s a rather chaotic mix of entertainment, dining, business and retail resulting from the development fever of the past few years.

Meanwhile, full-retail buildings and small stores on the ground floor of residential buildings proliferate along the avenues and 125th Street, and are spread around a total of 363 different locations. Plenty more big retailers are expected to set up store in the neighborhood in the near future, following in the steps of a much-hyped Whole Foods opening up next year. What impact these changes will have on the current residents is still a matter of controversy.

Hover over the chart below to see data for each building category in Central Harlem:

Note: The boundaries of Central Harlem, as they appear on Property Shark, are: Central Park North to the south, Morningside Avenue and St. Nicholas Avenue to the west, West 155th Street to the north, and Harlem River and 5th Avenue to the east.

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