Priced out of Manhattan and Brooklyn? Why not try the South Bronx? Manny Pantiga, co-founder of the Bronx-based Pantiga Group tells you why this neighborhood’s star is on the rise in this week’s Buy Curious.
THE WISH LIST:
I keep hearing that the South Bronx is the next hot neighborhood. What kind of apartments are popular there, and what should I know about the different neighborhoods within it?
The South Bronx—SoBro as those who purport to be in the know (or, actually, brokers and developers) like to call it—has been slowly but steadily gaining in popularity in recent years, and the reasons for that are quite simple, says Pantiga: “The South Bronx shares similar amenities to Manhattan neighborhoods as far as waterfront living, ease of transportation, etc. at a fraction of the cost.”
But where exactly should you go?
“Mott Haven and [neighboring] Port Morris are usually at the top of everyone’s list when discussing the [South] Bronx, and there’s a huge reason why [these two areas] have gotten so much attention… affordability,” says Pantiga. “Developers see the opportunity and have been aggressively buying in the South Bronx over the past few years.” (Editor's note: this enthusiasm has also resulted in some highly unfortunate attempts by developers to promote the neighborhood via events like a recent "Bronx is Burning" themed rave.)
Changes are afoot
In fact, in late 2014, Long Island-based Hornig Capital Partners picked up a 175,000-square-foot Mott Haven office building for $31 million. And earlier this year, The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners joined forces to purchase approximately five acres along the Harlem River, also in Mott Haven, and are planning to build as many as six 25-story towers with market-rate apartments.
The duo also spent $26 million for a 1.5-acre Port Morris site with 450,000 buildable square feet. Additionally, TV and film production company Silvercup Studios is also getting in on the South Bronx action and plans to open a 120,000-square-foot facility in Port Morris sometime next year.
“These projects will attract restaurants, boutiques and other amenities, which in turn will attract residents and drive prices up,” predicts Pantiga.
Mott Haven, a mostly residential nabe—is bordered on the north by East 149th Street, on the south by the Bronx Kill, on the west by the Harlem River, and on the east by the Bruckner Expressway. It is home to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, the Bronx’s oldest church, built in 1841.
Port Morris—which is bordered by the Major Deegan and Bruckner Expressways to the north, East 149th Street to the east, the Bronx Kill to the south and the Harlem River to the west—has more of an industrial vibe, with mid-to-late 19th century factories and warehouse buildings dotting its streets. In recent years, many of these older buildings have been converted to lofts. The onetime Estey Piano Corporation factory at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, for example, is now a loft building called The Clock Tower, and calls for rents as high as $1,775 a month for a one-bedroom. (Pantiga says the usual rent for a one-bedroom in this area is in the $1,200-$1,400 range).
In addition, the Bronx Borough President’s office is undertaking a Harlem River Waterfront District (Harlem River between 138th and 149th Streets) revitalization project. “This [venture] is dedicated to creating a publicly accessible waterfront park and can bring in as many as 1,500 apartments to the area,” says Pantiga.
Furthermore, a slew of subway lines run through the South Bronx—including the 4, 5, 6, B and D trains—making it a roughly 20-minute commute to 42nd Street.
Crime has also dropped considerably in the area. The 40th Precinct, which covers both neighborhoods, saw 70 murders in 1993, 27 in 2001, and just seven last year. Burglaries, robberies and assaults are also on the wane. (For comparison’s sake, the 28th Precinct in Central Harlem saw 35 murders in 1993, seven in 2001 and one last year. And the 20 Precinct on the Upper West Side saw a single killing in both 1993 and 2001, and none at all last year.)
The neighborhoods feature a mix of tenement-style apartment buildings and housing complexes, as well as brownstone-style row houses. Most buildings are rentals, with few apartments that are actually for sale (in fact, Zillow currently lists just 11 total listings for sale in Mott Haven and just two in Port Morris). “Apartments are very scarce in these neighborhoods,” says Pantiga, noting that options are likely to expand as the area becomes more popular (and developers swoop in accordingly).
Under-the-radar areas (e.g. get in now)
If Mott Haven/Port Morris aren’t your thing, but you’re still interested in the South Bronx, Pantiga recommends two under-the-radar locales: Highbridge and Hunts Point. “Mott Haven and Port Morris, in my opinion, are just the more popular choices,” he says, likening the areas to “Williamsburg before other Brooklyn areas became hot. As the South Bronx continues to flourish, these neighborhoods will inevitably be positively affected.”
Highbridge—which is bordered on the north by the Cross-Bronx Expressway, on the east by Jerome Avenue, on the south by East 161st Street, and on the west by the Harlem River—is roughly a square mile long, and has a mix of one-to-three-family homes, rental buildings and more industrial buildings.
“The area has many elements for growth what with Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Terminal Market [a shopping mall completed in 2009 which features such stores as Best Buy, Target and BJ’s] being just south of Highbridge,” says Pantiga. “With the success of the Bronx Terminal Market, it is only a matter of time before developers and large corporations bring their products and services to the area.”
Hunts Point—which is bordered by the Bruckner Expressway, the Bronx River and the East River—is another place you should look. The neighborhood sees a mix of manufacturing/commercial and residential, and like Highbridge, it has managed to avoid all the attention that [Mott Haven and Port Morris] have been receiving.
“The appeal of the area goes beyond the waterfront and the easy commute to Manhattan,” says Pantiga. “You will see quaint streets featuring the architectural charm of the early 1900s,” meaning that brownstones abound on certain blocks, like Manida Street. The neighborhood also has a mix of brick and frame two-family homes, as well as an abundance of rental buildings.
“Until World War I, Hunts Pont was actually a summer spot for the city’s elite,” says Pantiga. “However, it became better known for its industrial activity in the mid-1900s.”
Today, the neighborhood is home to the largest food distribution center in the world—the Hunts Point Cooperative Market. The neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of cuisines——including Mexican, Dominican, Caribbean and Asian—and shopping along Hunts Point Avenue—its main thoroughfare.
Hunts Point has also received its share of press in recent months due to the sale of the BankNote building for $114 million to Madison Marquettte and Perella Weinberg Partners Asset Based Value Strategy. In the last few years, the office building has gone from being mostly vacant to having more than 90 percent of its space leased.
Whichever neighborhood you choose is sure to grow even more popular as people continue to search for alternatives to pricey Brooklyn and even pricier Manhattan. “The South Bronx is on fire,” says Pantiga. “It will not be contained.”
Here are a few listings for your consideration:
Mott Haven three-bedroom, one-bath house, $415,000: This single-family home at 383 Powers Avenue between St. Mary’s Street and East 141st Street has a large master bedroom, a large living room and separate kitchen and dining areas. There are lots of closets, a patio, and a washer-dryer has already been installed. There’s also a fenced driveway.
Port Morris six-bedroom/three-bath house, $899,000: This multi-family brownstone at 428 East 134th Street between Brown Place and the Willis Avenue Bridge has been gut-renovated. The three-story structure has a two-bedroom apartment on each floor with a full bathroom, a living room and a modern kitchen. The house features hardwood floors, exposed brick and central heating. The first floor has access to outdoor space; there’s also a fully finished basement.
Highbridge three-bedroom, two-bath condo/townhouse, $229,000: Located at 1219 Nelson Avenue between West 167th and West 168th Streets, this recently renovated condo offers nearly 1,000 square feet of living space and has two balconies (including one off the master suite). The hardwood floors have also been refinished.
Hunts Point three-bedroom, three-bath house, $489,000: This two-family brick house at 728 Coster Street between Hunts Point and Spofford Avenues has a full basement, but there’s no parking on the premises.