Could the Two Bridges area be the last frontier for Lower East Side gentrification?
The Real Deal By Emma Johnson Published April 2006
In the real estate haven that has been New York in the past decade, it is oft lamented that Manhattan is void of undiscovered areas -- nothing left to gentrify, no deals to be had.
This may be true, but the nugget of the Lower East Side coined by the media as "Two Bridges" has piqued the interest of brokers who say the area encompassed by Grand Street on the north, Bowery on the west, and the East River to the east and south, is benefiting from overspill from hip, bordering neighborhoods.
The momentum behind this development is strong enough that Two Bridges has weathered the softening market thanks to being part of the larger-than-life force that is the Lower East Side, according to brokers.
"The market here is still extremely hot -- I believe it is the hottest market in sense of excitement of the neighborhood," said Jacob Goldman, owner of LoHo Realty, which specializes in the areas to the south and east of Houston Street. But Goldman claims he hadn't even heard the term "Two Bridges" before the New York Post interviewed him for a recent story on the area.
While MenuPages, the New York restaurant Web site, lists 85 establishments under "Chinatown/ Two Bridges," for example, not everyone is convinced that the area is as booming as some reports would suggest. Just as it will take quite a while, if ever, before Hell's Kitchen becomes Clinton, the Two Bridges sobriquet may not catch on, despite the efforts of the real estate industry and media.
"'Two Bridges' hasn't really hit the lexicon on the street," said Rob Gross, a senior vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman who specializes in the Lower East Side. "Demographically, it's kind of the way the Lower East Side was five to eight years ago -- there's not a lot of big parcels, a lot of tenement buildings, and not a lot of opportunity for tons of development. There's not a lot of loft buildings."
While change is indeed slow, there is an undercurrent of gentrification. When the 4,500 units of Co-Op Village became available in 2000, the area caught some new attention and the standard process of "every building being bought and redone, tenements being torn down and big buildings being erected" is now under way, Goldman said.
Glenn Schiller with the Corcoran Group recently sold what he calls a "rare piece of property" -- a 2,300-square-foot floor-through loft condo on Grand Street between Essex and Ludlow for $1.8 million. In Soho or Nolita -- both once-disparaged neighborhoods that have enjoyed their respective moments in the real estate headlines -- that apartment would have gone for $1 million more, he said.
Some notable new projects in the area include the Two Bridges Condos at 48 Canal Street, with units from $660,000 to $1.6 million with ubiquitous stainless steel kitchens, open layouts, and other amenities that appeal to the young, affluent buyer. A condo development at 142 Henry Street has units listed at $535,000 to $1.8 million.
The Forward Building that formerly housed the Yiddish socialist newspaper at 175 East Broadway is another project. It is comprised of 29 luxury units priced at $575,000 to $5.5 million and scheduled for May or June completion. Michael Bolla, exclusive broker for the property, said that half the condos are already sold -- but not to the demographic project principals predicted.
"I expected it to be geared to young, cool, hip single people, but that's not what happened," Bolla said. "It's mostly families from the West Village and Greenwich, Conn."
The main attraction with these buyers is the strong nearby public schools, Bolla said, especially Shuang Wen PS 184M, which produces 10-year-olds fluent in Mandarin and English. Other area amenities include nearby subway stops on the J/M and F/V lines and the nearby, newly renovated Seward Park and East River promenade. The city is also in negotiations with Basketball City, which hopes to move its Chelsea courts and event center to a 64,000 square-foot warehouse at Pier 36 just north of Manhattan Bridge.
While he is not convinced that Two Bridges is yet a significantly hip location, Rob Gross is sure it will see its day. "Will Two Bridges become the way Chelsea was?" he said. "Demographically, before Chelsea became the gayest zip code, it was a Hispanic neighborhood and all brownstones. That is the beauty of New York."