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Harlem Degentrification Watch: Real Estate Crash Hits Home

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Harlem! You flew high. So high! A bit too close to the sun, in fact, causing some overheating and, finally, a tragic fall. Your new condos became rentals and youth hostels, your crazy architecture never materialized, your ambitious urban makeovers fizzled. And now, the Times' Christine Haughney reports, your bread and butter?gorgeous old townhouses sometimes in need of a little elbow grease and TLC?is joining the misery parade. Is nothing sacred?

After an unprecedented surge in value from 2004 to 2007 (the median sale price shot up 150%, according to StreetEasy), Harlem townhouses are selling for far less, when they're selling at all. Brokers are even refusing to take on new listings, blaming the lack of buyers. Haughney focuses on one block to chronicle the crash: West 134th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. It has a little bit of everything, including abandoned renovations, dashed dreams of profit-rich flips, foreclosures and fire sales. One unfinished brownstone, at 221 West 134th Street, was bought in March 2007 for $750,000. An investor planned on pumping $550,000 into restoring the building and then selling it off for around $1.6 million. It's now on the market for $599,000, and if it doesn't sell the owner is considering carving it up and renting the units to Columbia students. The horror!

But the problems run deeper than just some bratty Ivy Leaguers swarming to the untended crops like locusts. The long-promised transformation of Harlem into something more shiny and new is at stake, according to some:

The decline is frustrating not only to those who bought Harlem homes hoping to resell them, but also to longtime owners who had anticipated seeing long-abandoned parts of their blocks spruced up. William J. Brown, a brownstone owner whose family has lived in and around the 134th Street block for four generations, said the area seemed to be turning a corner a few years ago. “It feels like a regression,” Mr. Brown said. “It seems the progress has halted or stopped.”

Don't tell that to the Connecticut empty-nesters puttering around the 'hood in Smart Cars.
· Harlem’s Real Estate Boom Becomes a Bust [NYT]
· Harlem Sales Down '60 to 90 Percent,' Autopsy Conducted [Curbed]
· Harlem 'Almost Looks Like a Complete Crash' [Curbed]