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New York City is famed for its dazzling patchwork of unique neighborhoods, yet few loom as large in the city’s shared identity as Harlem. The uptown neighborhood, which extends from Central Park to the south to the Harlem River to the north, was a focal point of the Civil Rights movement, a launching stage for some of the nation’s greatest figures in music and art, and today is home to cultural venues such as the legendary Apollo Theater and Studio Museum. An ongoing influx of new development brings new housing, which ranges from affordable to luxury, office, dining, and cultural institutions, further cementing the neighborhood as a thriving locale. Ahead, we take a look at the past, present, and future of Harlem and break down the biggest new developments to watch out for.

The past

Harlem, West 125th Street, 1928, historic, Geo. L. Balgue, the New York Public Library West 125th Street, looking east from Lenox Avenue. May 1928. Credit: Geo. L. Balgue via the NY Public Library
In the late 19th century, the expanding city absorbed Harlem, a village nearly as old as New Amsterdam. By the 1920s, Harlem had become home to the nation’s most influential African-American community. A blossoming business, social, and religious network gave rise to the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that produced leaders and activists such as Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois, musicians such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and poets such as Langston Hughes. A bustling nightlife scene flaunted both Prohibition’s dry laws and social stigmas by allowing people of all races and genders to socialize freely and paved the way for mainstream acceptance of music genres such as jazz.
Harlem, Apollo Theater in 1946, The Library of Congress Apollo Theater in 1946. Credit: The Library of Congress
The period also produced some of Harlem’s finest buildings. The eight-story Graham Court, completed in 1901, remains among the city’s grandest pre-war courtyard apartment buildings. The 13-story Hotel Theresa, built at 125th Street in 1913, featured a top-floor restaurant. Even the Great Depression came with a surprising silver lining, when a struggling “whites-only” burlesque theater at 254 West 125th Street was reborn in 1934 as the Apollo Theater, which would go on to gain global acclaim as both the soul of the neighborhood and a renowned performance venue.


The neighborhood became a hotbed of the Civil Rights movement in the postwar era when progressive groups organized across the neighborhood and attracted civic leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. But despite civic victories, Harlem suffered a series of setbacks when the city fell on hard times in the 1970s. Today, however, the neighborhood is undergoing a rapid revival, where new cultural institutions, shopping, dining, and apartment buildings are adding another layer of urban vibrancy.

The present

Studio Museum, David Adjaye Associates Studio Museum. Credit: David Adjaye Associates
As Harlem’s population approaches a historic high, the sidewalks, dining, and nightlife bustle with action. On the restaurant scene, old-time favorites like Amy Ruth's and Sylvia's are joined by newcomers such as Corner Social, Harlem Shake, LoLo's Seafood Shack, Minton's, Marcus Samuelson’s, Red Rooster, Ginny's Supper Club, and more. Whole Foods arrived at Lenox Avenue and 125th Street in 2017, introducing a much-needed major supermarket into the growing community. Likewise, upgrades are coming for local cultural institutions such as the avant-garde, 82,000-square-foot Studio Museum in progress on West 125th Street, designed by renowned architect David Adjaye.


One Museum Mile, Robert A. M. Stern Architects, Andre Kikoski Architect One Museum Mile. Credit: Robert A. M. Stern Architects / Andre Kikoski Architect
The recent crop of residential buildings sprouted in the late 2000s. An 18-story condo went up at 111 Central Park North in 2007, as Harlem’s answer to the high-rise apartments that face the park further south. The 22-story One Morningside Park joined a few blocks to the west in 2014. Further developments followed, many of which combined cultural institutions with residences above: the 28-story 5th on the Park, with a church on the lower floors; 16-story Graceline Court, cantilevered above a new school and mosque; and 19-story One Museum Mile at Frawley Circle, where the Africa Center, a cultural non-profit, faces the corner of Central Park.


Affordable housing also takes more pleasant forms than the neighborhood’s mid-century, tower-in-the-park housing projects. The 2014 development at 1951 Park Avenue features a cozy, sheltered courtyard that it shares with 200 East 131st Street that overlooks the East River. The Frederick at 2395 Frederick Douglass Boulevard rises 15 stories near St. Nicholas Park and includes amenities such as a community room, bicycle storage, laundry, and after-school study.

Recent Developments

Harlem's pace of development has picked up steam in recent years, with a slew of projects either recently completed, in progress, or on the drawing board.
Circa Central Park, Harlem Circa Central Park. Credit: Town
The sleek Circa Central Park arrived at Frederick Douglass Circle at the park’s northwest corner in 2017. The concave building curves along the roundabout and opens onto a roomy plaza, which acts as a grand gateway to Harlem. The 38-unit condo rises 11 stories and features amenities such as a fitness center, children’s playroom, and a roof deck that overlooks the park.
Victoria Tower, 233 West 125th Street, Aufgang Architects Victoria Tower, 233 West 125th Street. Credit: Aufgang Architects
The recently topped-out Victoria Tower at 233 West 125th Street ranks among the tallest buildings in Harlem, rising close to 350 feet. The 28-story, glass-clad high-rise is a prominent addition to the neighborhood core. The development integrates the neoclassical facade of the original Victoria Theater with two new theater spaces as an expansion package for the nearby Apollo Theater, as well as ground-floor retail and space for several non-profit and cultural organizations. The upper floors combine 191 apartments with a hotel, with panoramic views of Harlem, Central Park, and the city beyond.
E126, BIG Architects E126. Credit: BIG Architects
Big-name architecture comes to Harlem with Bjarke Ingels’ E126, a 12-story, 233-unit rental at 149 East 126th Street. The street-facing elevation bows inward in a dramatic fashion that maintains the established streetwall, creatively interprets the zoning code, and provides added sunlight at street level. The building sports a fitness center, game room, a swimming pool, and an expansive, landscaped roof deck.
11 Hancock Place, Aline Tom of +TOM 11 Hancock Place. Credit: Aline Tom of +TOM
11 Hancock Place makes a dramatic architectural statement with a gravity-defying cantilever that stretches above an adjacent low-rise, offering extra residential space on the coveted upper floors of the 12-story building without displacing its retail neighbor next door. Gridded floor-to-ceiling windows lend a loft aesthetic to the interiors. The dynamic design complements Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus to the west.
101 Morningside Avenue, Aufgang Architects 101 Morningside Avenue. Credit: Aufgang Architects
Completion approaches at 101 Morningside Avenue, an 11-story rental by Morningside Park’s northeast corner. Azimuth Development Group commissioned architect Ariel Aufgang for the project, who crafted a crisp structure where an exposed structural grid lends visual substance appropriate for the pre-war environment, while floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of light and showcase the park in full splendor. The building rises in a series of south-oriented terraces that make for excellent sunbathing. A church located within the lower floors integrates the building within the greater community.
10 Lenox Avenue, Halstead Development Marketing 10 Lenox Avenue. Credit: Halstead Development Marketing
The conservatively-styled, eight-story condo at 10 Lenox Avenue emulates its pre-war context with a brick facade and delicate traditional touches, such as molding courses and stone sills. The 27-unit complex offers a fitness center, a children’s play room, and a spacious roof deck that overlooks nearby Central Park.

Planned developments

121 West 125th Street, Empire State Development 121 West 125th Street. Credit: Empire State Development
Arguably the most significant development on Harlem’s drawing board is 121 West 125th Street, a 412,105-square-foot, mixed-use proposal that would rise at the center of Harlem’s financial, cultural, and retail hub. A collaboration of private, public, and state organizations plans to provide a diverse program of commercial, cultural, and non-profit office space, plus 171 affordable housing units, within a 17-story, 412,105-square-foot building. Most notably, the development will house the new headquarters of the National Urban League and the city’s first Civil Rights Museum.
La Hermosa Tower, 5 West 110th Street, Harlem, FXCollaborative La Hermosa Tower, 5 West 110th Street. Credit: FXCollaborative
La Hermosa Christian Church, the oldest Latino church on the East Coast, plans to replace their dilapidated structure and ground lot with a 33-story, 410-foot high-rise at 5 West 110th Street at Central Park’s northeast corner. The church would occupy the lower floors of the building and would enliven the distinguished Frawley Circle, notable for its Duke Ellington statue. The tower will join a skyline ensemble that includes The Heritage, a pair of octagonal, 35-story rental towers, and the 19-story One Museum Mile. Situated at the neighborhood gateway, La Hermosa Tower will stand as a testament to Harlem’s ongoing revival and may energize the vicinity as profoundly as the Time Warner Center did at Columbus Circle at the park’s opposite end in 2004.

Commercial projects

The Corn Exchange Building
Corn Exchange Building, Harlem, 6tocelebrate Corn Exchange Building. Credit: 6tocelebrate
Harlem’s construction boom encompasses more than just residential buildings. The 1884 Corn Exchange Building at the corner of Park Avenue and East 125th Street sat abandoned since 1972 and was reduced to a single story in 2009 due to unsafe structural conditions, despite its designation on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2015, local developer Artimus reopened the landmark as a modern office building with a meticulously rebuilt, historicist facade.
The Manhattanville Factory District
Factory District, Janus Property Company Factory District. Credit: Janus Property Company
The Manhattanville Factory District is a multi-use complex that consists primarily of office space, and combines historic restoration with ground-up construction. The commercial hub effectively connects Harlem with Manhattanville to the west, where Columbia University’s campus expansion is revitalizing the long-neglected neighborhood by the Hudson River.
Despite the rising construction cranes, Harlem remains a predominantly middle-class neighborhood dominated by pre-war housing. New development adds a touch of pizzazz to the urban fabric while benefiting the neighborhood in a number of ways. Mixed-use buildings create much-needed community facilities funded through condo sales. New ground-level retail provides top-of-the-line commercial space to local businesses. Harlem’s residential offerings are diversified with an influx of housing that ranges from affordable to luxury; the latter offers options for upwardly-mobile families that seek to upgrade their quality of life without leaving their neighborhood. As the city continues to invest in the neighborhood’s services and public areas, Harlem’s future looks brighter than ever.
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Content & Research Manager Vitali Ogorodnikov