Hudson Square Heats Up

By Eric Marx | February 01, 2004 11:01AM

Nestled between SoHo and the West Village, Hudson Square would seem like a natural pick as Manhattan’s newest hip neighborhood. Evolving from a grim post-industrial zone, the area is now becoming an outpost for “creative collar” (not white or blue) types and young families. Some are calling it the next TriBeCa.

Hudson Square is roughly bounded by Sixth Avenue and the Hudson River, and Canal and Morton Streets, and features a mixed skyline of low row houses, office buildings and two large warehouse facilities – the UPS and FedEx shipping plants – that still dominate a no-man’s-land area in the neighborhood’s center.

But it’s the recently rezoned Spring Street area that’s giving residential developers heart palpitations these days.

A quiet and lightly trafficked three-block stretch of art galleries, modern furniture showrooms, restaurants and bars, the block is also home to the centuries-old Ear Inn pub, which serves as the unofficial hangout for the locals-artists, craftsmen and laborers, many of whom had moved out of SoHo when it became too expensive 20 years earlier.

Now the area is in a state of flux, with two high-rise, luxury buildings already nearing completion on Greenwich Street and a third, a Philip Johnson-designed 11-story apartment tower on Spring and Washington Streets soon to break ground.

“I think it’s going to be a boom,” said Timothy Melzer, a broker with Douglas Elliman. “In that area you’re still in the West Village school district, so it’s attracting families. But it’s just north of TriBeCa so people really consider it TriBeCa because it’s so close, and it’s fairly close to the subways and the West Side Highway. That’s attractive especially if you work in New Jersey.”

One of the new developments, set to open by early March, is the Greenwich Street Project, a six-story condominium with 22 units in a former warehouse building constructed in 1908. Located at 497 Greenwich Street, it was designed by Dutch architect Winka Dubbeldam, and features a lap pool and screening room.

Melzer recently sold a 1,600- square-foot, fourth floor white box unit in the building for $1.15 million, or $718 per square foot. Construction also started this summer on a 14-story, 102- unit condo at 505 Greenwich St. being developed by Metropolitan Housing Partners.

“Go five blocks south on North Moore and Franklin and you’re paying $800 a square foot,” Melzer says. While by no means is it a bargain, these apartments let you into the area at a slightly better price.

“I think the area is going to be a little bit more affordable for about 10 minutes,” says Barrie Mandel, a senior vice-president at Corcoran who’s been selling in TriBeCa for nearly 20 years. “It’s not unlike the far West Village and 12th Street and the old meat packing district that somehow never came together and now is assimilated into the Village and Chelsea, and this part is similar.”

“You’re going to get a little of all the downtown types-a splattering of those who live downtown and certainly families more now than ever because of the schools and parks on the water,” she says. “And then you’ll have your creative types who don’t want to be in the middle of a neighborhood and want to be edgy.”

John Franqui of Trinity Real Estate, the largest real estate developer in the area with some six million square feet owned and operated, characterized the neighborhood as “creative collar – not really white or blue,” in a story by The New York Sun.

In other parts of the neighborhood, to the east off Sixth Avenue is the historic Vandam-King-Charlton district, a pristine three block area of tree-lined streets and residential walkups that are the remnants of what originally was a district filled entirely with residential properties before a spate of industrial buildings began going up in the late 1800s.

The neighborhood is also home to a slew of office buildings which run down the eastern corridor along Varick and Hudson. The crown jewel is the Saatchi & Saatchi building at 375 Hudson, which houses the advertising firm as its anchor tenant.

Residents in the neighborhood are near subways, and there are a number of public schools in the area, including one on Varick and Clarkson streets.

Overall, though, the neighborhood is still a few years away from gaining any cohesiveness, says Jason Pizer, director of commercial leasing with Trinity Real Estate.

“Canal is a very serious border there,” he says. “That’s probably an impediment to the area truly gaining an identity as Hudson Square where people who live in TriBeCa still consider it TriBeCa and people who live in SoHo still consider it SoHo.”

Still, the residential development is bound to bring in a different type of person who needs more services, and this is going to create new retail opportunities, Pizer says. Of particular interest to Pizer is the Morton Square project.

The project features townhouses, lofts, rental apartments and 147 condominium units, and is scheduled to be ready for occupancy this spring.

Two-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo units are priced at $1.3 million and townhomes start at $3.75 million.

“The cheapest apartment there is going for $1 million and the average apartment is like $2 million,” says Pizer. “They’re going to need to go somewhere to get a quart of milk. They’re going to need to get their prescription filled and so the demand will be there for the retail component, which will help greatly gentrify the area.”