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Hamilton Heights—the Harlem neighborhood that stretches from 135th to 155th Streets, and from the Hudson on the west to St. Nicholas Avenue on the east—is getting plenty of attention these days, thanks in part to a certain popular musical about its namesake. The area includes Hamilton Grange, a memorial and former home of the founding father, as well as the cultural offerings of City College, the gorgeous architecture of the historic Sugar Hill district, and the waterfront views of Riverbank Park. And yet, as a recent New York Times article describes, the neighborhood remains fairly affordable.
Data site NeighborhoodX took a look at the price range of listings in Hamilton Heights, examining the cost per square foot in apartments currently for sale, excluding income-restricted units—of which there is a considerable amount in the area. Constantine Valhouli, founder of NeighborhoodX, says that the resulting data represents a fairly wide range of real estate options, adding more context to the usual metric of price-per-square-foot we hear so much about these days:
Average prices tend to drop as you head north from the Upper West Side, Valhouli says, and you'll get far more of the proverbial bang for your buck here than you would downtown. In a neighborhood like Chelsea, for instance, a unit that costs $800 per square foot is likely to be a dark basement apartment, Valhouli says. In Hamilton Heights, on the other hand, for around the same rate you'll find this five-story, historic townhouse at 469 West 143rd that includes a roof deck and patio:
"On the upper end of the price range, you'll find thoughtful rehabs and redevelopment," Valhouli explains. "On the more affordable end, recognize that there's probably work to be done, a lack of a view, or a longer walk to the subway."
The average listing price for the neighborhood is $734 per square foot; one of the listings at the lower end, a five-bedroom multi-family townhouse at 350 West 145th that goes for $533 per square foot, has some of the hallmarks Valhouli listed. While it offers considerable space for the price, the building also needs some TLC: The first and second floors are currently outfitted as commercial spaces, and the owner would need to decide how to use them. The upper, residential floors are a bit narrow and some corners need updating, and the backyard looks pretty rough.
The penthouse at 475 West 143rd, meanwhile, which is asking $1,269 per square foot, has been made over with plenty of bells and whistles, such as new, upscale appliances. It also includes a master bedroom with a cathedral ceiling, and a roof deck that has been spruced up with a wet bar, skylights, and pop-up television. (Note that the outdoor space contributes to the square footage and should bring the average price per square foot down slightly.)
Overall, Valhouli says, the area could be on the cusp of change: "I rented a place up there last year to explore, and it felt like really early Lower East Side," he says. He cites a coffeeshop called the Chipped Cup as a place that "looks like New York from 20 years ago. If you could point to one place that's a sign of where the neighborhood is going, it would be that."
But while many of its residents work in creative fields, Hamilton Heights remains somewhat sleepy, and locals tend to head elsewhere for both work and nightlife. "It feels like a neighborhood of people who are commuting downtown," Valhouli says. "You do get a bargain in terms of space, but you're making up for it with a longer commute."
What it lacks in entertainment options, Hamilton Heights makes up for in scenery, thanks to the unique geography of upper Manhattan. Plus, because the island narrows here, nothing is that far away. "You still have cliffs and hillsides and light and breezes and views," Valhouli says. "It's incredible to have a view over the water and the subway within a soccer ball's kick of one another."
As is the nature of New York City, though, the area may not remain a bargain. As Valhouli notes, "Hamilton Heights starts right above the new Columbia University campus, so that's going to be a game changer."
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