March 17th 2010
The Amsterdam News
Back in 1997, the City Planning Commission and the City Council approved the Bradhurst Urban Renewal Plan.
Its goal? To develop new residential, commercial and community space for 34 designated sites in the area marked by West 155th Street to the north,West 138th Street to the south, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. to the east and Bradhurst and Edgecombe avenues to the west. The end of the renewal project is nearing its completion and is looking great for all involved.
Up to this point, the project has created close to 2,500 units of mixed-income and new rental space. The cornerstone of this plan, Ellington on the Park, is surrounded by 800 new units of housing and occupied retail space, including The Sutton, a 135-unit co-op at West 147th Street and Bradhurst Avenue, and Bradhurst Apartments, a 23-rental unit building located at West 148th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Ellington on the Park is a 133-unit complex located at 130 Bradhurst Avenue on the corner of West 148th Street.
The building includes a fitness center, a community room and a parking garage. Each unit is equipped with high-speed Internet wiring and a washer-dryer closet. Located across the street from the renovated Jackie Robinson Park, Ellington on the Park has already attracted buyers, many of whom are from the neighborhood. According to the Bradhurst Renewal Plan, 100 percent of Ellington on the Park residents are first-time homeowners.
Among this group, 50 percent of the residents are from the surrounding neighborhood and 63 percent are Harlemites. Nine of the purchasers work in education, 10 purchasers are public employees and 12 purchasers are medical professionals. Gale Kaufman, of Duvernay & Brooks, the developers of Ellington on the Park and several other projects in the area, spoke about the building’s beginnings.
“Well, this was developed under the Cornerstone Program,” said Kaufman. “Back in 2003, the HPD [New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development] issued an RFP [request for proposals] back in 2003 and it included a number of sites on the two blocks bordering [West] 147th and 149th streets, with Bradhurst [Avenue] on the west and Frederick Douglass Boulevard on the east. Number of sites the city owned.”
Some of the sites were also owned by the Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement and they worked with Duvernay & Brooks in development plans. With the renovation of Jackie Robinson Park and amphitheater, Ellington on the Park appears to be the perfect setting for families. Kaufman, however, couldn’t take credit for the development across the street.
“I’d love to take credit for the Jackie Robinson Park and amphitheater, but I would say we were fortunate that all of this was happening around the same time,” Kaufman said. “We converted the co-op on January 28. And we have already closed on well over 70 apartments. They’re all in the process of moving in. It’s a nice, new, clean space with concierge services, and the fact that we’ve been able to sell and close means that financing is getter much better.”
Citibank and JPMorgan have been the prime lenders for buyers of Ellington on the Park, but with the state of the economy over the past couple of years, things did become difficult for a while. Some interpreted this as a problem; one saw it as par for the course.
“It’s just like any other project,” said Charlie Lewis, senior managing director of Warburg Realty, the broker that dealt with potential buyers. “When the market changed, banks tightened up on their credit and it was very difficult for people to get proper financing. It also made people less likely to purchase based on a floor plan. That whole practice has changed. They wanted to see a finished product.”
Lewis handles the marketrate co-ops, and according to him, there are about 20 more available for purchase. Lewis isn’t worried. “There’s been a lot of interest, with about seven to 12 people coming to each open house,” Lewis said. “As soon as spring happens, more people will come.”
Kaufman felt that a major burden was lifted off their shoulders when the first buyers of Ellington on the Park spaces were pursuing the affordable units. “That helped stabilize this building,” she said. “They all had contracts and financing. It made this viable and put it in a position where it is ready for future buyers.” Kaufman understands that location and timing are the most important things when it comes to the market.
“The views and the outdoor space? You can either offer that or you can’t,” she said. “You can’t design that.”