Upper West Side renters have been quietly relocating to Hudson Heights ever since the low-rise, prewar buildings went co-op in the mid-eighties. They get to keep their river views, and Fort Tryon Park access is a bonus. Brokers feared that Washington Heights heavily publicized drug corners and crime scenes would discourage sales, but demand continues to rise, and now trendy restaurants and frilly boutiques have emerged. The local grocery store has begun stocking organic poultry, yellow-stem tomatoes, and escargot, and building owners are sprucing up their courtyards with leafy shrubs and flowers.
POPULATION SHIFTS: "Performers started to move in when they saw how big the apartments were," says broker Simone Song. For what it would cost to rent a one-bedroom on 79th and West End, you can get a three-bedroom with a terrace on Fort Washington Avenue. Lenny Hickey and his wife bought a two-bedroom co-op in Hudson View Gardens, a Tudor-style complex built in 1924, for $100,000 five years ago. "I live next door to a music teacher, a conductor from the Singapore Philharmonic, a jazz critic from the Times, and a daytime producer from CBS," he says. "From my bedroom, we can see the Palisades Parkway and the river."
STREET LIFE: Around the time the market began to shift, the corner of 181st Street and Pinehurst was still problematic. "You used to see cars broken into, people peddling stuff on the street, squeegee men trying to wash your car. But now we can walk down the street without a threat," says Bill Rodriguez, co-owner of Franks Market on 187th Street.
CREATURE COMFORTS: A free shuttle drops residents in front of Fairway at 132nd Street. Franks Market, a 53-year-old neighborhood butcher, recently doubled its size and started selling gourmet fare like South African oranges, criminis, and beluga caviar. Last year, when places like CVS, Rite Aid, and Duane Reade were taking over local drugstores, Hilltop Pharmacy expanded its corner store on Fort Washington.
WHAT'S NEW: Gut renovations were recently completed on a three-floor, eight-unit rental building at 344 Cabrini that was vacant for fifteen years. The apartments, mostly studios and one-bedrooms, were snatched up almost immediately for prices ranging from $800 to $1,600 a month, says Gus Perry, president of Stein-Perry Realty. Theres talk that the twin property next door will go condo next summer. "Theyd have to get really high numbers for those apartments," says Perry. "Can we sell million-dollar, two-bedroom units in Washington Heights? I dont know."
PROGNOSIS: The secret is out. "People come up here because its cheap, its quiet, and its beautiful," says broker Michael Jones at Citi-Habitats. "So what if its an extra twenty minutes on the subway?"
Click here for the full list of neighborhoods.