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Get ahead of the crowd in Manhattan Valley.

Manhattan Valley, the last affordable stronghold in luxury Manhattan real estate, has experienced a remarkable gentrification over the last five years. Since we purchased our first building at 241 Central Park North 24 years ago for a now-shocking $86,000 (with a $15,000 down payment), the "gateway to Harlem" has been absorbed, both financially and culturally, by the more mainstream Upper West Side.

Although tenants pay a premium to live in this up-and-coming area, whose unusual name derives from the valley-like decent and incline of the streets which span West 100th to 110th Streets and Central Park West to Amsterdam Avenue, there are still deals to be had.

Apartments are roughly 30 percent cheaper than those further south. Bordered by the IRT Seventh Avenue 1,2,3,9, and the A, C and E Eighth Avenue subway lines and in close proximity to Central Park, Manhattan Valley's historic townhouses are considerably less expensive than those below 96th Street.

A four-story townhouse on Manhattan Avenue, for example, is currently on the market for $1.95 million, as opposed to over $3.5 million that similar residences command on nearby West End Avenue. A two-bedroom apartment on West 109th Street lists for $515,000, a shockingly low price considering its close proximity to one of New York's toniest areas. In short, although space costs are steadily rising, there is far greater investment value for the dollar in Manhattan Valley than a mere 20 blocks away.

Manhattan Valley is regentrifying at a rapid pace. The pricey condos at 455 Central Park West, whose 25-square-foot towers line the park at 106th Street, currently list for between $3.5 million and $7 million and typify the neighborhood's resurgence. The former Towers Nursing Home, built in 1884 by John Jacob Astor III as New York's first cancer hospital, (designed with circular rooms so germs couldn't hide in the corners), has been renovated by developer Dan McLean and designer David Rockwell, and is known in the real estate community as the "Dakota of the North."

Astor's architectural achievement is not the only nod to New York history in Manhattan Valley. Only steps from Central Park, Manhattan Avenue is lined with historic townhouses dating from the 1880's to the early 1900's, whose beautifully detailed stone, brick and ironwork, ornamental iron gates and rails, terra cotta plaques, and bay windows evoke turn-of-the-century New York. The historic Church of St. Michael and the Astor Hotel both lend their charm to the neighborhood.

Former Mayor David Dinkins contributed significantly to the Valley's upswing. Mayor Dinkins jumpstarted the gentrification project in the 1980's by investing millions of dollars to renovate sidewalks, lampposts, and historical monuments such as the memorial to Duke Ellington at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Dinkins also landmarked and refinished the nearby reservoir in Central Park, now known as the Jackie Kennedy Onassis reservoir, which has since become one of Manhattan's most popular jogging spots. His efforts and allocation of funds have turned back the clock, on Central Park North, between 96th and 110th Streets, restoring the park's original beauty and pristine state.

Mann Realty's first foray into New York real estate took place in Manhattan Valley 24 years ago, with our purchase of 241 Central Park North--one of only two buildings in the area that were occupied. Nearby buildings were solid cinderblock, and crumbling gas stations stood at every corner. The entire neighborhood was depressed, gritty and crime-ridden.

Today, however, Manhattan Valley is a thriving neighborhood that is home to shops, health clubs, theaters, bars and at least 15 Zagat-rated restaurants. Neighborhood cuisine offered includes Asian fusion, French, Caribbean, Japanese and Afghan. Rao's, the exclusive, club-like Italian restaurant frequented by New York's A-list, is a mere stone's throw away on 114th Street. A lively but sophisticated collegiate atmosphere can be felt due to the close proximity of Columbia University, Barnard College, Bank Street College and the famed Manhattan School of Music. Statistics also show that current crime rates are equal to those of the West 80's, making Manhattan Valley as safe as the "Lower" Upper West Side.

Mann Realty possesses a faith in Manhattan real estate that has remained steadfast over the years. New York is a world-class capital city, and anyone with the opportunity to invest here is wise to do so. Neighborhood demarcation lines will continue to blur as prices escalate and available properties in well-located areas of Manhattan such as the Upper, Upper West Side become fewer.

The undervalued state of Manhattan Valley will not last for long. Potential buyers who wish to wait for a Bloomingdale's or Banana Republic to open on Manhattan Avenue before investing may find themselves missing the boat--and writing a bigger check.
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Article Details
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Author:Mann, Maurice
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 23, 2005
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