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Chelsea Heights
Glass houses: Everywhere you look in North Chelsea, a new luxury rental building pops into view.

When Shaun Osher arrived in Manhattan from South Africa in 1989, the first thing he did was go to the INS building on 25th Street and Seventh Avenue to get his Social Security card. Ten years later, he found himself selling multi-million-dollar lofts in the very same building, now called the Chelsea Mercantile. "That building has been very good to me," says Osher, 35, a senior vice-president at Insignia Douglas Elliman. "It's my American dream." No one would have equated the "Dirty Thirties" with the American dream as recently as three years ago, when "Chelsea Heights" was a no-man's-land of trash-strewn lots and check-cashing stores, and Billy's Topless was the only local landmark. But when the Chelsea Atelier was converted to luxury condos in 1997, others followed. Since then, developers have bought up loft warehouses all over the neighborhood and converted them to luxury residences such as the Caroline and the Capitol, both on Sixth Avenue near the flea market.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: The recent real-estate boom has created new boundaries for Chelsea, which now extends from 14th Street, between Sixth Avenue and the West Side Highway, all the way up to 30th Street. Most brokers won't take clients who request Chelsea to the northern reaches without some explanation. "You have to kind of ease them into it," says Osher. Ryan Fitzpatrick, a bond analyst, and Tom Cunningham, a strategy consultant at Interdimensions, didn't need much encouragement in January, when they first laid eyes on a two-bedroom duplex on 29th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, with a working fireplace, one and a half baths, and 1,150 square feet of space -- for less than $500,000. They are currently in contract.

THE NUMBERS: Studios range from $1,600 to $2,000 a month, one-bedrooms $2,200 to $2,600, two-bedrooms $2,500 to $3,500. Buyers can expect to pay $400 to $700 per square foot, or up to $1,000 per square foot in luxury buildings like the Chelsea Mercantile.

PROMISES, PROMISES: In a recent speech, Mayor Bloomberg voiced support for building parks and more open spaces in this area, expanding the Javits Center, and bringing the 7 train as far west as Eleventh Avenue. Plans to convert the 34th Street post office into an Amtrak station are going forward.

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Photo: Pak Fung Wong

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