The Bronx's Grand Concourse is known for its stately apartment buildings dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, and city officials are seeking to preserve the artery's historic flavor as well as implementing upgrades to the roadway.
The city developed the tree-lined thoroughfare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to connect the Bronx with Upper Manhattan. Sitting in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, the Grand Concourse is home to civic institutions such as the Bronx County Courthouse and cultural establishments like the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
Two years ago, the city created the Grand Concourse Historic District, which spans about a mile between East 153rd and 167th streets and includes 78 properties. Most of the district's buildings are five- and six-story apartment houses, including many striking examples of Art Deco and Moderne architecture.
Preservationists have been concerned, of late, with the fate of the Bronx General Post Office, which sits on the Grand Concourse a few blocks south of the historic district. In January the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to sell the building.
The Depression-era facility was designated a city landmark in 1976 and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. But the building interior—which has 13 large murals painted by Ben Shahn and Bernarda Bryson Shahn in the late 1930s—doesn't have landmark protection, a concern to some politicians, artists and preservation groups if the facility is sold.
"Ben Shahn is one of the most prominent artists of the '30s and '40s and this is considered one of his most prominent works," Peg Breen, president of the nonprofit New York Landmarks Conservancy, said of the murals, which depict Americans at work in settings such as farms and factories.
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission was receptive to calls for the interior's preservation and voted last month to schedule a public hearing on the landmark proposal. The hearing will likely be held on Oct. 29, according to a spokeswoman for the commission.
In addition to trying to safeguard the interior, some in the community are fighting to keep the building in operation as a post office.
"The loss of this important service at precisely this location will invariably have a detrimental impact on the area's local institutions, businesses and most importantly our residents, who depend on this post office for more than the purchase of stamps, but also to drive traffic to the community," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement.
A Postal Service spokeswoman said the price sought for the building will be determined by "a competitive process," without providing details on the pricing or timetable for the sale.
Meanwhile, the city is poised to implement a second phase of upgrades for the Grand Concourse. A restoration project involving the widening of street medians and upgrades to lighting and landscaping between East 161st and 167th streets was completed in 2008 and is scheduled to be extended between East 167th and 172nd streets next year, according to Jose Rodriguez, the district manager for the local community board.
"We are sad the entire Concourse isn't being done," said Mr. Rodriguez.
Brokers and others in the community say that residents are drawn to the area's large, prewar apartments and its access to public transportation, with a subway stop at 161st Street for two express lines, the 4 and D.
"We're the Gold Coast of the Bronx," said Ariela Heilman, a broker with Halstead Property, who is active in the area after moving from Chelsea in 2006.
Ms. Heilman said the area's real-estate market has almost fully rebounded from the 2008 financial crisis. While the trendy restaurants and shops often associated with gentrification have yet to make a mark on the area, "it's only a matter of time" before that happens, she predicted.
Brokers say co-op prices vary depending on whether an apartment has been renovated but that one-bedrooms usually range from $120,000 to $170,000; two-bedrooms typically sell between $200,000 and $240,000; and three-bedrooms often start at around $250,000.
Parks: Several parks surround the Grand Concourse. Franz Sigel Park, which runs on the Concourse between East 151st and East 158th streets, has baseball fields and basketball courts. Joyce Kilmer Park, on the Concourse between East 161st and East 164th streets, features the Lorelei fountain, erected in the late 19th century in honor of the German poet Heinrich Heine. A few blocks west of the Concourse are Macombs Dam Park and Mullaly Park.
Schools: The Grand Concourse Historic District falls in District 9. Local public schools include the Family School, which has an enrollment of around 550 students and received a C grade from the city for the 2011-2012 school year, and J.H.S. 145, Arturo Toscanini Junior High School, which has an enrollment of around 450 and received a B grade from the city. Private schools include the Roman Catholic All Hallows High School for boys with 650 students.
Dining: Casual eateries and fast-food chains abound in the area. The Feeding Tree, on Gerard Avenue, specializes in Jamaican dishes and Molino Rojo, on East 161st Street, serves Latin-American fare.
Shopping: The Bronx Terminal Market is a few blocks west of the Concourse next to the Major Deegan Expressway; stores in the shopping mall include Target, Home Depot and Best Buy.
If You're Browsing for a Home in The Grand Concourse Area...
828 Gerard Ave., No. 2B
This is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op in a prewar building.
Price Comparison: Priced at $248 a square foot compared with $201 a foot for other area two-bedrooms
Listing History: On the market four months; the asking price was reduced 7% a month ago
Property Plus: The maintenance is $675 a month.
Property Minus: Buyer must not finance the unit's purchase.
Listing Agent: Victoria Vinokur of Halstead Property
Open House: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m.
Friday, September 06, 2013