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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 88, no. 2279: November 18, 1911

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Vol. LXXXVIII NOVEMBER i8, 1911 No. 2279 HARLEM'S PREMIER STREET NEEDS REBUILDING. The Full Development of 125th Street is Hindered by the Lack of Mod¬ ern Buildings and the Owners Are Maintaining an Obstructive Policy HARLBM was the oldest settlement in upper Manhattan. Oringinally, an isolated village on the Boston Post road, it is now a district of the city, comprising the territory above 110th street, between Morningside and Colonial parks and the Harlem River. Not many years ago it had an abundance of fine private resi¬ dences, but its population has radically changed, and to-day it is distinctly an apartment house section, possessing no exclusive private house quarter. Many of the old residences that still exist have been turned into business places or flats or used as boarding houses or furnished room houses. The growth of Harlem lias brought many changes and several shifts of popu¬ lation, but the local character, which was always its distinguishing feature, still persists, Yorkville, Manhattanville and Bloomingdale were all well-known set¬ tlements of early New York, but they have Ijeen engulfed to such an ex tent- that their boundaries are no longer dis¬ tinct; Harlem js still Harlem, a city with¬ in a city. ings where much business is transacted, as a rise in values is generally reflected in a building movement, A decade ago 125tli street did its fair share of busi¬ ness, and since that time its earning power has increased many times, yet one almost searches in vain to find a sub¬ stantial improvenient, and so far as build¬ ings are considered, the street resembles the main thoroughfare of a thriving vil¬ lage. The best block lis the one between Seventh and Eighth avenues, yet only one or two six-story buildings are in evidence and rauch of the property on the south side of the street is taken up with one and two-story buildings. Considering the prices which prevail and the rentals obtained, this is indeed surprising- Very little land is for sale on the south side of this block, and real estate men in the neighborhood place a A-alue on it of frora $5,500 to $0,000 a front foot. A twenty-five foot store, of full depth, would easily rent for $10,000, and might bring naore in prosperous times. The north side of the street is one flnds some of this valuable property encumbered with antiquated frame struc¬ tures that would hardly be tolerated on the business street of a third-rate town. That the maintenance of these inade¬ quate structures is unwise and unprofit¬ able is shown by the few modern build¬ ings which have been erected. A few years ago a building of a modern type was erected on the northwest corner of Sevemth avenue, extending through to 126th street. AVitliin a very short time the space was all taken at good prices, and this particular improvenient lias re¬ sulted in making tlie corner one of the best in Harlem. Up to a certain point, stores alone can return a fair percentage on the value of the land which they oc¬ cupy, but when the cost of a lot exceeds $100,000, either the owner must improve it in an adequate fashion or he must be content with an inadequate return on his investment. Beyond a certain point, store rentals cannot be raised without disaster, and apparently that condition has been reached, at least in the blocks between Lenox and Eighth avenues. In the last THE NORTHEAST CORNER OF STH AVENUE—ONE OF THE FEW MODERN BUILDINGS OX 125TH STREET. THB MOST VALUABLE BLOCK IN HARLEM—125TH STREET, BETWEEN 7TH AND STH AVENUES, Its population lias increased enormously and as a result land values have risen and the commerce of the neighborhood has become so important that Harlem possesses the most notable crosstoAvn thoroughfare in the city. From a business standpoint, 125th street has more A-alue than any other similar thoroughfare north of Forty-sec¬ ond street and values and rentals on the best blocks compare favorably with those in the midtown section. Excepting Thirty- fourth and Forty-second streets, no cross- town thorouglifare has exhibited such in¬ creases in rentals as 125tli street, the shopping and amusement center, not only for all Harlem, but in a large measure for Washington Heights and the Bronx. Some of the best known houses in the city have located there, and one or two department stores are to be found. Other streets in Harlem have derived beneflt Irom the enlarged population, and small retail stores are supported on nearly every avenue, but the bulk of the d^is- trict's general shopping is done on 125th street. From early morning until late at night a continuous throng is to be found, especially on the blocks between Eighth and Third avenues, and in mid-afternoon the casual observer would be led to be¬ lieve that the entire population of Har¬ lem was parading 125th street. In spite of all this travel and apparent activity, the street presents a condition radically different from that of any other thoroughfare of equal value. In this city one naturally looks for substantial build- naturally not so valuable, worth about one-tliird less, and yet the difference be¬ tween the two sides of the street is not nearly so marked as in many other of the city's crosstown streets. A station of the Sixlh and Ninth avenue elevated lines is at Eightli avenue, and this is one of the busiest corners in the city, yet the two westerly corners are given over to Raines law hotels and the easterly ones are im¬ proved, respectively, with four and flve- story buildings. The reason for this remarkable state of affairs appears to lie almost entirely with the owners, Por a long time the bulk of the property has been under wealthy and extensive ownerships, and most of the land holders have adopted an obstructive policy, either refusing outright to sell or else asking such fancy prices as to drive the prospective builder elsewhere. Some, it is true, have leased their property for long terms, biit the conditions have rarely been sufficiently advantageous to induce the lessees to make extensive improve¬ ments, and one or two-story buildings, occupied solely by the tenants, have re¬ sulted. These conditions are not con¬ flned lo the block mentioned, but are met with on nearly the entire length of the street. The block between Seventh and Lenox avenues is not quite' so valuable as the one to the west, property being worth about $1,000 less a front foot, but retail stores are in demand and tenants are easily obtained at fair prices. The subway station at Lenox avenue makes this an extremely busy corner, and yet two years there has been very little en¬ hancement in these blocks, and every effort to raise rents has been met with a determined opposition on the part of re¬ tail merchants. What 125th street needs to-day, accord¬ ing to brokers in the neighborhood, is modern six or eight-story mercantile buildings, and a careful survey of tlie en¬ tire situation should, it is said, convince any owner or prospective purchaser that the future of the street is sufficient to warrant investments in this class of structures. No important street in the city is so well supplied to-day with trans¬ portation lines calculated _to bring busi¬ ness to the district as is 12oth street. The western end is served by the Broadway branch of the subway, and the Broadway and Tenth avenue surface lines. The Sixth and Ninth avenue elevated lines and the Lenox avenue subway branch, as well as the Eighth and Lenox avenue surface cars, run through the central dis¬ trict. The eastern end has the New Tork Central Railroad, the Second and Third avenue elevated lines and tlie surface cars on every avenue. The Third avenue surface cars turn into 125th street, cross to Amsterdam avenue and run up that thoroughfare to AA'ashington Heights, tapping a residential district in which dwell an almost countless number of buyers. Besides the lines mentioned, which are all in operation, the new Lex¬ ington avenue siibway will have an ex¬ press station at 125th street. Undoubt- ediy this will be extensively used by Har-