Over the past 15 years, the US economy has been in constant flux following 9/11 and its aftermath, a stock market boom and subsequent crash, the recession followed by a slow but steady recovery. Amidst the uncertainties, Manhattan has been a good place of investment for foreigners and the wealthy as they continue to invest in Manhattan property, driving the average price per square foot up 76.2% in the past ten years.
Lower Manhattan’s growth over the last 10 years
Right now, Lower Manhattan is experiencing a new popularity beyond the iconic Wall Street and Financial District. Young families and lifelong Uptowners are now flocking to the TriBeCa and Battery Park City neighborhoods Many businesses have moved their offices downtown, including publisher Conde Nast who signed a 25-year lease to become 1 World Trade Center’s anchor tenant.
The Lower East Side: a new revitalization
The Lower East Side (LES) has been called one of the last true communities and neighborhoods left in Manhattan, has recently undergone a lot of changes. Similarly to the rest of Lower Manhattan, the LES is becoming a haven for young families and wealthier residents. In 2006, the old Jewish Daily Forward building was renovated and converted into condominiums. Adam Davidson for The New York Times describes the Lower East Side makeup as “one of the most economically integrated parts of the city” and “one of the last places where the fairly rich and the very poor live on the same blocks and shop in the same bodegas.” This distinction was seen most clearly in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy when LES residents were left without any necessities or supplies, many with nowhere else to go.
Unlike the rest of Lower Manhattan, the LES is missing some key necessities of a flourishing community: public schools, public spaces, a movie theatre and a full-sized supermarket. The neighborhood’s only full grocery store closed just after Hurricane Sandy due to the building being sold to a condominium developer. Local politicians have worked relentlessly with the building’s developer to ensure that a new grocery store will fill the empty retail space. This is essential as grocery delivery services, like FreshDirect, do not deliver to the entire neighborhood and there are only more residents moving in.
The largest undeveloped area of city-owned land south of 96th Street is on the Lower East Side, which was known until recently as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). After nearly 50 years of political stalemates, the city began accepting bids in May and then selected a developer for the 1.65 million square foot site which will break ground in 2015. Now named Essex Crossing, it will add to the neighborhood many services and amenities including approximately 1000 apartments, with fifty percent slated for affordable housing and a full-time school for the nonprofit Educational Alliance’s groundbreaking College Access and Success program, which helps low income residents earn a college degree while their children attend Head Start preschool in the same building. Businesses small and large are emerging alongside each other. On Orchard Street alone, formerly part of the discount district, there are not only 25 galleries but a slew of new restaurants and shops. The neighborhood has become so popular, a Holiday Inn opened on Delancey Street and the exclusive club SoHo House is looking to establish an east-side outpost on Ludlow Street.
Recent changes on the LES have made the neighborhood somewhat unrecognizable to some of its longstanding residents. Yet, community is being fostered in new and innovative ways, maybe more so than any other neighborhood in Manhattan. While middle-class and low-income residents are being pushed out of the rest of the city, the LES does not forget that it started as a community of immigrants and honors its diverse socioeconomic and racial background. Unlike the boom in the other areas of Lower Manhattan, half of Essex Crossing’s new residents will be low-income and, true to the history of change and development on the Lower East Side, will live alongside the new residents of higher-end apartments.
From: Educational Alliance
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