clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Once-gritty Avenue A is undergoing a major transformation

New, 4 comments

The gateway to Alphabet City is shedding its once-gritty reputation as new developments and high-end retail move in

The scene on Avenue A, with Steiner East Village on the left

Welcome to Key Corridors, a series in which we look at the changes—real estate and otherwise—coming to major thoroughfares throughout New York City. For more in this series, check out previous posts on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

When news broke earlier this summer that a new Target would be coming to the East Village, on the corner of Avenue A and East 14th Street, we said that it was "the latest sign of the neighborhood’s übergentrification." And in recent years, Avenue A itself has becoming a surprisingly robust example of that hyper-development, with both luxury condos and chain stores now dotting the once-gritty thoroughfare.

Not that gentrification in Alphabet City is anything particularly new. Back in 1988, the Tompkins Square Park riots (which spilled over onto Avenue A) ensued in response to a curfew in the park, but organizers also wanted to make a larger point about changes in the neighborhood, even carrying a banner that declared "gentrification is class war, fight back." And Avenue A’s once-quirky mix of mom-and-pop shops, nightlife, and low-rise housing is slowly but surely being replaced by high-end apartments and retail.

Don’t believe us? This old post from NY Songlines details the noteworthy locations along Avenue A, with many having shuttered in the past decade or so. It includes places like alt-comedy club Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction (whose location is now home to a member’s-only social club for dogs—yes, really); Odessa Cafe, which turned into The Black Rose, a "rock & roll inspired" bar; and the Burger-Klein building, at one point an eye-catching (if not beloved) midcentury structure, is now a bland New York Sports Club. Some stalwarts do remain—Pyramid Club, the restaurant portion of Odessa, Ray’s Candy Store—but who knows for how long.

To be fair, that sort of retail turnover is inevitable in Manhattan. But what’s more shocking is the newfound residential cache bestowed on the thoroughfare (and, indeed, Alphabet City as a whole). Apartment prices have been steadily rising for more than a decade, but two new developments—Steiner East Village at the corner of East 12th Street, and Ben Shaoul’s 100 Avenue A—have brought multi-million dollar condos to the area. And Extell’s development at 500 East 14th Street—future home of the Target!—will have two rental towers, which will surely push prices up further.

With all that in mind, we decided to take a stroll along Avenue A and see what the neighborhood looks like today—bearing in mind, of course, that this will all probably have changed in a few years time.