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Bowery's riches to rags story comes full circle.

For many years the Bowery has been known as a land of flophouses, counterculture and kitchen equipment sales. But in the last couple of years, its character has changed dramatically. With the rise of NoHo and NoLIta and the continued revitalization of the East Village and the Lower East Side, the Bowery has taken on characteristics similar to those of its westward neighbor Broadway. A look at the infamous street's past, however, reveals that this shift is simply a return to the street's original character.

In 1667, Peter Stuyvesant retired to his farm which was then the ending destination of the Bowery. The Dutch called their farms "bouwerij," and the road was, naturally, called "The Bowery Road." By the end of the 18th century, the Bowery became New York's most elegant street, lined with mansions of prosperous residents and fashionable shops. But at the end of the 19th century, many low quality tenements were built to accommodate the many immigrants pouring into the city. The construction in 1878 of the Third Avenue Elevated Train over the Bowery further precipitated the decline. The noise and shadows of the elevated trains eroded real estate values wherever they were built. Civil War mansions had given way to brothels, gigantic beer gardens and two-bit flop houses.

The decline of the area and its inhabitants continued well into the 1900's. Then, in 1973, Hilly Kristal opened Country, Bluegrass and Blues (CBGB) and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers (OMFUG) on the ground floor of the Palace Hotel flop at 315 Bowery, across from Bleecker. On the CBGB website, Kristal recounts the early years.

"Having a rock club on the Bowery, under a flop house (believe it or not), does have some advantages. (1) The rent is (was) reasonable (2) Most of our neighbors dressed worse than, or more weird than our rock and rollers (3) The surrounding buildings were mostly industrial and the people who did live close by, didn't seem to care too much about having a little rock and roll sound seeping into their lives. The disadvantages: within a two-block radius there were six flophouses holding about two thousand men, mostly derelicts ..."

As the famous club continued to provide a safe haven for underground music, the neighborhood around it began to provide a safe place to live. During the 80's and continuing into the 90's, New York City as a whole was improving and once avoided areas began to become desirable.

The famous club closed its doors for the last time on October 15, 2006. Its disappearance was an example of the changing character of the neighborhood.

AvalonBay Communities has already completed two blockthrough luxury buildings, the Avalon Chrystie, a on the southside of Houston between Bowery and Chrystie and the Avalon Bowery on the northside of Houston between Bowery and Second Avenue, and is under construction on a third property on the north side of 1st Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue.

Typical 2BR/2B apartments in the Avalon Bowery rent from $5200-$5775.

Even the famous developer/hotelier Ian Schrager has seen fit to enter the area with a spectacular cutting edge development at 40 Bond Street, where he will build five ground level townhouses and 22 apartments above them. The townhouses are the first to be built in New York in many years. Schrager purchased the 14,200 square foot lot in January 2005 for $16,010,956, or $224.64 per buildable square foot, based on the zoning in place at the time.

The units are currently listed at prices ranging from $3,650,000 ($2,876 psf) for a 1BR/2B to $10,250,000 ($2,886 psf) for a 3BR/ 4B apartment.

Along with Schrager, Richard Born and Ira Drukier, owners of the highly successful Maritime Hotel at 363 West 16th Street, are underway with a similar project at 335 Bowery. The new 16-story building will be a 140-room boutique hotel, set to open by the end of the year. Gregory Peck of LoungeSleep is also in the early stages of construction of a 22-story, 145-room, Cooper Square Hotel on the Bowery between 5th and 6th Streets.

The Bowery's symbolic end can be said to come at Cooper Union, where, in 1859, industrialist Peter Cooper built this brownstone Italianate building.

Cooper Union is adding to the neighborhood's renaissance with plans to build a state of the art building at 43 Cooper Square that will add to the changing landscape of Cooper Square and the Bowery. NYU has also been active in the area with construction of a $30 million, 13- story dormitory with 174 studio apartments for lease at Bowery and Second Street.

There is a great deal of money going into the area and the mix of hotel, commercial and residential condominiums, residential rentals and new retail space.

All of this ensures that the golden age of this area rich with history is yet to come. Similar to the resurgence experienced in the west side's Meat Packing district, the Bowery corridor is truly a "hot area" on the rise.


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Article Details
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Author:Kinsey, James
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 27, 2006
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