No one who has read Robert A. Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Power Broker is likely to ever forget the author’s depiction of the Bronx of the early 1950s.
Then cradling some of New York City’s loveliest neighborhoods, the area was involuntarily set on a path to destruction with Robert Moses’ dictatorial push to slice the Cross-Bronx Expressway through stable enclaves like East Tremont. Construction displaced more than 1,500 working and lower middle-class families who’d comprised the backbone of the Bronx for decades. Along with myriad other factors, their exodus from the borough helped propel its swift decline. Within 25 years, the Bronx and especially South Bronx were nationally infamous for crime-ridden urban decay.
The revival of communities like Mott Haven, in the southwest corner of the borough, over the past decade has signaled past may be prologue, and that the future of the Bronx could be just as bright as it seemed in the first decades of the 20th Century. The nook’s rebirth actually goes back decades, but has steadily accelerated since 2013.
“Mott Haven’s vibrant neighborhood, which is just steps away from restaurants, art, music and entertainment, is extremely attractive for modern renters seeking convenience, ease of transportation and an active lifestyle in the heart of it all,” says Michelle Monko, director of business development for EXR.
The company is overseeing leasing of The Arches, a pair of newly-developed 25-story luxury apartment towers at 224-228 East 135th Street, featuring 430 units.
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Mott Haven’s reemergence is pinned to several distinctive attributes. First, the enclave is steps from the 4, 5 and 6 New York City subway lines, offering easy accessibility both into Manhattan and to the Hudson Valley, the Catskills and beyond.
In an era that growingly prizes pedestrian friendliness, the district is also highly walkable. The South Bronx has been termed a “walker’s paradise,” enabling residents to saunter in virtually any direction to locate a new favorite eatery or fine dining spot among the 182 restaurants, bars and coffee shops that pepper the district. Trendy shops and restaurants line Mott Haven’s Bruckner Blvd., the Bronx Zoo is situated nearby and the vaunted home of the legendary, pinstriped Bronx Bombers, Yankee Stadium, stands a subway stop away.
There’s no shortage of history or culture, either. The Mott Haven historic district is the borough’s first designated historic district. The New York Botanical Garden, the city’s iconic living museum, educational institution and cultural touchstone, calls the South Bronx home. Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx hosts free summer concerts by the New York City Philharmonic Orchestra. The Bronx Museum of the Arts, as well as an array of less famous historical houses, galleries, museums and parks are also located within the borough.
The South Bronx, and particularly Mott Haven, have witnessed dramatic growth resulting from increased private and public sector investment. Institutional investors like Brookfield and RXR are building market-rate apartment buildings to deliver 5,000 units over the next half decade.
Among the growth drivers has been jobs expansion. The Bronx added 40,900 public-sector jobs from 2007 to 2017. It set employment records for 10 straight years, according to a report from the Office of the New York State Comptroller in 2018.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest right now from people currently living in the Bronx who want to remain in the area. And I can definitely understand why,” says Archibald Rowan, director of new development at EXR. “There’s a lot to love about Mott Haven. Some of my favorite restaurants are in the neighborhood along Alexander Avenue. And there’s a unique vibe in Mott Haven that cannot be found anywhere else.”