And Just Who Are All These Uptown Developers?

A considerable chunk of Manhattan’s condominium projects proposed for 2007—nearly half—will be constructed above 86th Street, and many of them will be built by first-time or little-known developers. As reported in this week’s Observer, some 30 of the 65 planned condominium projects submitted to the State Attorney General’s office, between Jan. 1 and May 7, are above 86th Street. And a vast majority of those will be above 110th Street.

But instead of having backers with names like Zeckendorf, Trump or even Padeh, these $20 million new-construction and conversion projects—like the one going up at Seventh Avenue and 127th Street—are being built by outfits like NYC Designs Inc., the Poko Partners and Mann Realty. A $27 million conversion at 1890 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 114th Street, for example, is slated to be built by something called Tahl Propp Equities.

“I don’t want to call it a gold rush, but there are a lot of young, small-name firms taking cracks up there all over the place,” said Trevor Stahelski, the impossibly young and successful partner at Cardinal Investments. “The dirt is cheap, and it’s in Manhattan. It has the Manhattan neighborhood structure that you have in other parts of the city: colleges, hospitals, transportation.”

It is exactly this marriage of relatively inexpensive land prices and a Manhattan address that is bringing more real-estate savvy developers and buyers to neighborhoods above the park.

Mr. Stahelski, whose project at 245 West 115th Street is already sold-out (“We’re done!”), thinks the reason the area is attracting a slew of unseasoned developers is evident: “You can take a little more risk and be a little farther away from established areas and be a pioneer in gentrifying neighborhoods; it’s really a simple strategy.

“We look for opportunity, balance the risk by staying in Manhattan in neighborhoods that are getting safer—it’s gentrification,” Mr. Stahelski explained.

And what kinds of buyers are hoping to take advantage of lots of space, easy access to public transportation, good Manhattan schools and safer streets?

Yup, you guessed it—families.

“I think our buyers are almost exclusively coming from the Upper East and Upper West Sides,” They are comfortable up there, they have kids and they know there are good schools around,” said Gary Davis, executive vice president of development at the Athena Group. That firm’s 111 Central Park North (the marketers’ moniker for 110th Street) is already over 70 percent sold.

Mr. Davis cited a couple other factors drawing folks to the area: “Retail is following the residential. There is great light in the air, since zoning restrictions are very strong, so buildings won’t get too tall.”

The perfect height, some might say, for a new developer.

And Just Who Are All These Uptown Developers?