A gourmet market and café slated to open in East Harlem next month is the first in a wave of new restaurants and stores expected to move into the neighborhood in the coming years, real estate experts said.
An Ottomanelli Brothers New York Grill will open soon at 1325 Fifth Ave. at 111th Street, according to the owners of the family-owned, 100-year-old New York chain, best known for its prime cuts of meat. Brokers said more high-profile eateries will follow now that retail in the area has begun to catch up with the high-end residential properties built during the recent housing boom.
"You're starting to see a different type of lifestyle up there," a broker at Halstead Property, Farrah Mogh, said.
The opening of Ottomanelli's heralds the coming arrival of more high-end retail outlets in the area, she added. "It's a very good sign," she said. "It will bring other merchants to the area."
Several of the city's other high-profile eateries, including Le Pain Quotidien and the Shelly Fireman Group of Bond 45, are looking at the neighborhood, the Prudential Douglas Elliman broker who represented the buyer and seller in the Ottomanelli's deal, Faith Hope Consolo, said. "Ottomanelli's is leading the charge," she said.
"It's an area we'd love to go to," a partner in the Fireman Group, John Fireman, said. "Because of the rapid development that's occurred there, it's produced a really interesting, vibrant community that's a great marketplace for restaurants."
Known for its freshly ground meat, grass-fed beef, poultry, and game, Ottomanelli's operates five butcher shops and restaurants in the city. Nicolo Ottomanelli, who with his brother Joseph is chairman of the company, said his grandfather founded the business in 1900 with a pushcart on Delancey Street. Another Ottomanelli's store, on Bleecker Street, is owned by cousins, he said.
The new, 28,153-square-foot Ottomanelli's, situated on a tree-lined block not far from the Duke Ellington memorial, will feature a sidewalk café facing Central Park.
Though Harlem's busy 125th Street corridor boasts a Starbucks and a number of restaurants and retail stores, the area just east of Central Harlem contains far fewer options. Ottomanelli's only nearby competition will be a Kennedy Fried Chicken and a small pizza place.
But Mr. Ottomanelli said he is confident that more businesses will arrive, especially with the Robert A.M. Stern-designed Museum for African Art under construction on Fifth Avenue, between 109th and 110th streets. "The neighborhood is really coming around," he said. "I was surprised that the major chains were not up there yet."
Earlier in its history, Ottomanelli's also ventured into an emerging neighborhood. When the company opened a small butcher shop on 82nd Street and York Avenue more than 35 years ago, the "old Germantown" neighborhood was markedly different than it is today. "There were no supermarkets," Mr. Ottomanelli said.
Before long, the investment proved to be a wise one. "A lot of the young professionals started moving in, and the young moms with the strollers," he said. "That's how it evolved. The same thing will be happening there at 111th Street."
High-priced housing — such as the luxury high-rise 111 Central Park North, where a three-bedroom apartment starts at $1.9 million — is becoming more common in and around East Harlem. A decade ago, however, the area had a reputation as one of the most dangerous and economically depressed in the city, Louis Dubin, the CEO of the developer of 111 Central Park North, the Athena Group, said.
The influx of middle- and upper-income residents to the neighborhood in recent years is now creating a need for retail, restaurants, and services, he said. "It's changed rapidly over the past 10 years," he said. "There's more disposable income in the neighborhood, so there's a demand for more services, like more restaurants and dry cleaners."
The co-owner of the concierge service at 111 Central Park North, Abigail Newman, said that though the area already has basic services, incoming residents are seeking more options. While a large number of stores are to the west, near Columbia University, and further north along 125th Street, East Harlem needs more shops, beauty salons, and restaurants, she said.
"The neighborhood could use more retail," Ms. Newman said. "People live in Manhattan because they want to walk out of their apartment and have things readily available to them."
She added that stores in the area are already beginning to evolve. "I'm seeing new places pop up all the time," she said.
Cafés like Ottomanelli's are particularly important to quality of life because they generate street traffic, the CEO of Artimus Construction, the developer of several new luxury properties in Harlem, Eytan Benyamin, said.
"You're getting a beautiful apartment," he said. "If you don't have some entertainment around you, if you're walking by closed shops, it's demoralizing."
In particular, high-end eateries are needed in the area to complement the takeout and neighborhood businesses already present, said Ms. Mogh, who has several East Harlem listings. "There's a need for good dining, which we don't have," she said. "This is going to have a very nice impact on the area."