While still home to generations of Hispanic and African American families, Hamilton Heights is experiencing a shift: Millennials are moving in.
And with Columbia University's Manhattanville campus being built just south of the neighborhood and its Medical School campus expanding to the north of it, it's no wonder that students are also flocking to the northwestern Manhattan neighborhood.
Adding to the appeal is the gothic-style campus of the City College of New York (built from Manhattan schist stone recycled from the excavation of the subway) at its southern end. The school attracts a particularly diverse population of students.
The local parks, Riverside, Riverbank State and St. Nicholas, seal the deal for young people.
Santiago Steele, an agent with Citi Habitats who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, said that he's noticed a major shift in the area since 2012.
"It seems to me that the changing Hamilton Heights story here is really tied to the rapid spread of what I call 'the hipster cafes' in the Heights over the past two to three years," he said.
To cater to the influx of young residents, cafes and boutiques are opening in the basement level of the neighborhood's brownstones.
Newcomers, however, face some daunting rent costs.
According to StreetEasy, the median rental price in Hamilton Heights in August was $2,500.
Halstead agent Tecumta Tiwoni said a one-bedroom that rented for $1,600 in 2010 now goes for around $2,150, and tiny two-bedrooms rent for around $2,250 a month.
StreetEasy reported that the median sales price in Hamilton Heights in July was $435,527, but Steele, of Citi Habitats, warned that prices are rising quickly.
Steele had a client who paid $1,095,000 for a row house on West 149th Street in 2010. The mostly identical house next door sold for $1,530,000 in June 2014, he said.
Instead of getting new developments like other parts of the city, Hamilton Heights is experiencing widespread renovations.
Many of the multi-family buildings in the neighborhood are being bought by investment, Steele said. Former rental buildings are being converted to condos with high-end finishes.
But rising prices haven't deterred apartment hunters from snatching up listings in the area, so longtime residents have no choice but to adjust to their new neighbors.
"Hamilton Heights is realizing more investment now than ever. There is more luxury housing, more restaurants and the population has grown," said Sherman Edmiston, who has owned a row house and art gallery in the neighborhood for 30 years. "Hamilton Heights is in the midst of a major transformation and the challenge is to be a part of shaping what it will become."
Older residents in the area said they worry newcomers may not be as drawn to civic groups and community activism.
Tiwoni, of Halstead, who bought a 20-foot-wide brownstone between Convent and St. Nicholas avenues (which he said is rumored to have once been the home of Billie Holiday), said he hopes young people will join organizations like the Hamilton Heights Homeowner's Association.
He wants the area's tight-knit community-feel to live on through future generations.
"There is a true sense of community here," Tiwoni said. "Everyone greets each other in the morning and the entire area has a very neighborly vibe. This is one of the few neighborhoods in New York where everyone watches out for each other."
Finding Hamilton Heights
Hamilton Heights spans from West 135th Street up to West 155th Street between the Hudson River to the west and Edgecombe Avenue to the east.
C to 135th Street, 145th Street and 155th Street
B to 135th Street, 145th Street, 155th Street
A to 145th Street
D to 145th Street, 155th Street
1 to 137th Street/City College and 145th Street
M3,M4,M5, M11,18, M100, M101
Bx 6, Bx19, Bx33
NYPL Hamilton Grange branch, 503 W. 145th St.
USPS, 521 W. 146th St.
Hamilton Heights is covered by the 30th Precinct. In the week of Sept. 21-27, the precinct reported five robberies and no burglaries. The precinct logged two murders and 14 rapes in 2015 as of Sept. 27. Overall crime in the precinct is down 1.55% this year compared to the same period in 2014.
Hamilton Heights Real Estate
600 W. 141st St. #26
One bed, one bath; $1,595 per month
620 W. 143rd St. #10E
Two beds, two baths; $4,395 per month
505 W. 135th St. #1
Three beds, one bath; $2,500 per month
606 Riverside Drive #5H
One bed, one bath; $439,900
524 W. 151st St. #4
Two beds, one bath; $250,000
706 Riverside Drive #9D
Three beds, two baths; $1,100,000
2015 Hamilton Heights market data as of Oct. 6
Median sales price: $498,930
Number of units on market: 220
Median rental price: $2,300
Number of rentals on market: 1,462
Where to eat in Hamilton Heights
The Grange Bar & Eatery, 1635 Amsterdam Ave.
This farm-to-table restaurant is new to the neighborhood. The staff is friendly, the crowd is happy and the weekend brunch (almond French toast, chorizo omelet) is popular, as is the occasional live jazz. Thegrangebarnyc.com
La Flor de Broadway, 3395 Broadway
Customers said La Flor's Cuban sandwiches are a favorite, along with the fried plantains and café con leche. 212-926-4190
Sugar Hill Café, 410 W. 145th St. Locally-sourced, single-origin coffee, juices, pastries and sandwiches. Owner Chung Lee has put art by locals on the wall and hired friendly baristas. Facebook.com/sugarhillcafe
What to do
Hamilton Grange, 414 W. 141st St.
Named the Grange, Alexander Hamilton's former home, now run by the National Park Service, overlooks St. Nicholas Park. The national memorial is open Wednesdays through Sundays and Ranger-guided tours are offered. Nps.gov/hagr
Trinity Church Cemetery, 770 Riverside Drive.
In the mid-1800s, the cemetery of Trinity Church Wall Street was full so the church fathers bought this parcel of land. Many famous folks are buried here including Clement Clark Moore, John Jacob Audubon and most recently, former Mayor Edward Koch. Trinitywallstreet.org
The Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling, 898 St. Nicholas Ave.
The newest attraction in the neighborhood opened last week and is designed to "celebrate and create and share a world of art and stories" with children from the neighborhood and beyond. Sugarhillmuseum.org
Harlem Public, 3612 Broadway
This industrial-style bar hit the neighborhood three years ago with drafts, craft beer, wine and cocktails. In an adjacent space called At the Wallace, drinking and games like Jenga and bingo combine. Harlempublic.com
Sofrito, 679 Riverside Drive
A piece of La Isla del Encanto (Puerto Rico) transported to Hamilton Heights. Come for the fabulous views of the George Washington Bridge, salsa bands, DJ?s and Latin jazz, and Caribbean food. Sofritony.com
Hogshead Tavern, 126 Hamilton Place
This relative newcomer with its sleek interior draws a crowd with a full drink menu which includes wine on tap, craft beers and ciders. If it?s alcoholic and it?s trending, it?s here. ?Share plates? which include pork belly grilled cheese or Korean beef tacos are $10. Hogsheadharlem.com
Where to shop
There are two in the neighborhood from July to November. One is at 143rd and Hamilton Place on Wednesdays from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. through Nov. 25 and is run by teens from the non-profit Brotherhood/Sister Sol. The Grass Roots Farmers' Market is at 145th Street and Edgecombe Avenue on from 9 a.m-4 p.m. on Saturdays through November.
Essie Green Galleries, 419 Convent Ave.
Stop by to browse artwork by artists like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis. New exhibits are mounted every few months; the latest features collages by Chicago artist Allen Stringfellow. Essiegreengalleries.com
Sweet Chef, 122 Hamilton Place
Just renovated, this cozy bakery takes extra pride in its sweet potato and pecan pies. You can get a 4-inch pie for $3 or a 10-inch for $20. 212-862-5909
Buzz: The Hamilton Heights real estate market has the rest of Upper Manhattan heating up
According to StreetEasy, uptown Manhattan median resale prices grew 13.5% between August 2014 and August 2015.
In Hamilton Heights, the median monthly rent for a two-bedroom rose from $2,175 in August 2014 to $2,400 in August 2015, StreetEasy reported. The median price of condos rose from $580,000 in August 2014 to $639,000 in August 2015.
As for how this is affecting locals, local City Councilman Mark Levine said there the situation is both positive and negative.
"On the one hand new restaurants and bars opening here have provided a much-needed economic boost to the neighborhood," he said. "On the other hand, long-time local businesses -- many Latino-owned -- are closing at an alarming rate in the face of soaring rents."
Yuien Chin, a community activist for 25 years and the force behind the events website HarlemOneStop, agreed.
"I love the fact that services that we advocated for years ago are coming to our neighborhood," she said. "But I wish the changes would be more sensitive to the disenfranchised who live here and to the struggling middle class."
Residents, however, are excited about the affordable housing units being created in what was an abandoned public school at 521 W. 145th St. The building is slated to have 63 low-income apartments, seven middle-income and eight market-rate. It will also have a 10,000-square-foot facility for the local Boys & Girls Club.
Q&A with John Reddick: Neighborhood expert
John Reddick is a freelance architect, Harlem historian and tour guide. He was the organizing force behind the effort to erect the sculpture commemorating Ralph Ellison that stands across the street from the Riverside Drive building where the writer once lived.
When and why did you move to Hamilton Heights?
I moved to the building I still live in in the early '80s right after I graduated from the Yale School of Architecture. My one-bedroom cost $175 [a month] then. I had often visited a cousin who lived on Convent Avenue when I was in college and was drawn by the topography the neighborhood, by the architecture in the context of its culture. I think of this as Manhattan's Acropolis. I don't think I would have felt as welcome in some other neighborhoods as I did here when I moved in. Now I conduct walking tours of the area and try to correct some of the stereotypes that people have about it and the people who live here. When I ask, at the end of the tour, "Does Hamilton Heights look like you thought it would? The answer is always 'no.'"
What do you like about the neighborhood?
This is a neighborhood where people have "cross-pollinated." People of different backgrounds have shared their talents and have worked together on their art and on building community. I am working on a book now about how the Jews and the blacks who lived here collaborated to produce some of the greatest music of our time. Everyone in the American Songbook except Cole Porter either grew up or lived here. An example? George Gershwin took stride piano lessons from Lucky Roberts when ragtime was the hip hop of the era. The connections go on and on. This is my little village where I have my little nest and people know me.
What will the area be like in 10 years?
I'm worried that our history is slipping away. Or maybe it's already gone. Will the newcomers join the churches? Will they keep the community groups, the block associations going? Will they tend the vegetable plots in the Hope Stevens Community Garden? Will Columbia University students and faculty who move here engage with the community? Are people going to take pride in the history of the neighborhood where they live or just in the fact that they've bought a beautiful old row house for $2 million?