Mayor envisions destinations for tourists, tech geeks and science nerds. Residents and some pols fear more gentrification.
A new “Grand Central Station” for Harlem. A biotech center. A jazz museum. A new home for a national civil rights organization. A massive brewery and pub.
It’s all part of Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for 125th St. — circa 2025.
Mega-developer Scott Metzner, head of Janus Property Company, beat out 16 competitors in the bidding war for one of the biggest projects — converting the dilapidated 280,000-square-foot former Taystee Bakery factory into a new-age home for startups, eateries and shops.
“It’s Harlem’s turn to move into the 21st century,” said Metzner.
Janus is spending around $500 million on 11 buildings between Amsterdam Ave. and Morningside Ave. — part of an effort to turn west Harlem’s so-called “Factory District” into a mini-Dumbo.
“For the first time in 100 years this will be an active neighborhood again,” Metzner said.
The “Factory District” idea came from a 2008 rezoning of the 125th St. allowing the construction of towering condo and office buildings in lieu of low-rise mom-and-pop shops.
Then the city’s Economic Development Corporation decided which abandoned properties could serve as upper Manhattan’s startup meccas.
“Harlem’s growth and evolution will ensure it becomes one of New York City’s premier destinations for generations to come,” said Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball. “The arts, culture, science and industrial sectors of Harlem will continue to thrive.”
One of the first fruits of the redevelopment effort is Harlem biospace, opening Nov. 1 after scoring $626,000 in city funds. It’s expected to host about 15 science startups including several budding drug companies.
“It is a tremendously attractive location. There is nothing like it in Manhattan,” said Columbia University biomedical engineering professor Sam Sia, who will rent out lab space, and the necessary research equipment, for $995 per month.
Harlem’s tentative — and glitzy — makeover does have its naysayers.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Harlem) said the ambitious projects do not include enough apartments in west Harlem, where the median household income is $29,000 a year.
“Economic development isn’t beneficial to our community unless it helps longtime residents, and we’re going to need substantially more affordable housing,” Espaillat said.
There is some housing in the larger city plan: The future headquarters of the National Urban League, for example, will share the building with 60 low-cost apartments, plus the Museum of the Urban Civil Rights Experience and ample ground-floor retail.
But it’s the only spot in the sweeping revamp which include cheap places to live.
Still, the National Jazz Museum is planning to open down the street. And further east near Park Ave., Community Board 11 and Economic Development Corporation officials are hoping to transform the decaying Metro-North Railroad station into the “uptown Grand Central” with hip shops and restaurants.