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City Living: Financial District draws families with boom in new development

The Financial District is still often associated with office buildings, Wall Street deals and as the area where many traverse to board ferries and party boats.

But the lower Manhattan neighborhood is more than suits, stocks and docks. It is jam-packed with culture, cuisine and in more recent years, has been blooming with families.

FiDi, as the area is nicknamed, is hugged on three sides by water.

"A lot has changed in the 27 years I've lived here," said Catherine McVay Hughes, a mother of two boys and chair of local Community Board 1. The area has become more family-friendly, she said.

"There's a strong sense of community, whether on the new playgrounds or attending a local after-school program for families with kids, the little league or the downtown soccer league," Hughes added.

The growth in families created a need for more schools, and CB1 is currently fighting for a new District 2 school to be constructed within FiDi.

Since 9/11, FiDi has experienced a bullish rejuvenation with the construction of the Fulton Center subway station, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and One World Trade Center with the One World Observatory restaurant on the 100th floor.

The redevelopment of South Street Seaport's Pier 17 from Superstorm Sandy damage is still ongoing and the $4 billion, 800,000-square-foot World Trade Center Transportation Hub also opened this year.

New watering holes - like Cedar Local on Cedar Street, The Malt House on Maiden Lane and Clinton Hall on Washington Street - are awakening the nabe's once-sleepy nightlife scene.

Greg Costa and his wife Emily moved here 18 months ago, drawn by the area's plethora of transportation options. Thirteen subway lines and the PATH all pass through FiDi.

"It's also low key on the weekends and you get the most for your money in terms of living space," he added.

According to Citi Habitats real estate agent Ben Yoon, who lives and works in the area, many office buildings have been converted to residential.

"It's not the cheapest area but for those comfortable with the price ranges, they're finding that you can probably get a little bit more [out of living] downtown," he said.

Old-money meets new in FiDi as Romanesque and Renaissance Revival and Art Deco architectural styles remain among modern developments like 15 William St., The Beekman at 5 Beekman St. and 20 Exchange.

In the South Street Seaport Historic District, wharf brick buildings and townhouses line Front, Water and Dover streets with offering spacious, pre-war features.

The high-rises here come with high prices. One-bedroom rentals start at $3,000 can go up to $3,600 while a two-bedroom is within the range of $4,500 to $5,000, according to Yoon.

A one-bedroom pre-war condo averages $1.1 million with a monthly building common charge and real estate tax of nearly $1,700. A post-war one-bedroom averages $1.5 million with a common charge and real estate tax of $1,400.

Unlike other areas in the city, FiDi gets quiet on the weekends, and some businesses close until the tourists and lunch-breakers come back on Monday.

The 22-acre Battery Bark, the East River Bikeway and South Street Seaport provide respite from the hustle and bustle. And some residents consider the water and Governor's Island their pseudo backyard as they can kayak and sail on the East River or take a ferry ride over to the island to cycle or picnic with family and friends.

But those who live here don't mind the mix of commercial, tourist and residential features, eight-year resident Denise Carter said: "You see moms with strollers walking alongside guys in suits going to their offices on Wall Street and it all works."