While no one can seem to tell us who came up with the term SOHA (south Harlem) or why 118th St and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard is considered South Harlem, we don’t really mind. Let’s go with the idea that someday you will read about NOHA as well. In the interim, welcome to the SOHA 118 condominium, which is slated to open for occupancy this Winter. While we wouldn’t give high marks for the “face” of the building (something just shy of a modern day institutional living facility) there is something to be said for the “faces” on the website. The building proudly presents an array of culturally and professionally diverse beautiful, everyday people–clearly a reference to the fact that the neighborhood welcomes a diverse population.
SOHA stands 15 stories high and is shaped in a rounded “U.” The views from the three outside faces aren’t quite “views.” The inside of the U faces a man-made courtyard which is pleasant enough. The noise level of the courtyard can’t be determined yet, but surely will be better than the sounds of traffic. What is seemingly clever about the building is that units on the fifth floor have actual backyards. Additionally, some of the penthouses have dual terraces; and the duplex penthouses even have a third balcony. These touches make good use of the 3 sides that encompass SOHA 118. In contrast to other developments going up in the area, aside from word of a Starbucks, this one seems to lack a distinct personality, or any distinctly different amenities. Maybe the additional commercial space appropriated will give SOHA 118 the distinction it needs to stand out amongst the ever-growing number of new developments in South Harlem.
The building is strictly 2 & 3-bedroom units. Among the 93 units, 39 were part of the affordable housing lottery, thus giving the building its tax abatement. Fair market prices come in between $800-$900/foot, a breath of relief from the prices we’ve been covering further south in Manhattan. As of today, 33 units are still remaining.
Unit 6B, which is 1356 square feet, has a price tag of $1,049,000 with common charges of $891 plus taxes at $37. Penthouse 10I, a 1540 sq ft, 3-bedroom, 2-bath with a 504 foot terrace, is listed at $1,425,000 with common charges of $1,106.80 and taxes of $46.26. In both cases, the buyer is getting space at under $1000.00/ foot. The taxes save the day on the units giving balance to the common charges SOHA’s pricing might be a tad aggressive for the neighborhood and therefore, SOHA might have work a bit harder to move the remaining units at their current prices.
We found it interesting that 6 of the penthouses have fairly undesirable placements on the grid. The exterior units either face 117th street (perhaps the least desirable view), Fredrick Douglas Blvd (noisy and ugly except maybe the top units), and 118th street (the best of the worst views–at least a decent looking low-rise to look at). The interior units have either the courtyard and/or mostly open views, some very nice views of St. Johns on Amsterdam.
If we had to pick our favorite units, it would be those located inside of the U. For example, start with 5A, a 2-bedroom nestled in the back south corner with a private backyard. We also like the grander PH3D, a duplex with 2 terraces and a balcony, located smack on the backside facing the courtyard and looking toward Morningside Park.
Units & Amenities
All of the kitchens feature Silestone counters, teak millwork and JennAir appliances; exotic woods, Calcutta marble and Purist fixtures abound in the bathrooms, and Brazilian Cherry flooring in the living/dining room areas. Nice, but not spectacular or different. What new construction doesn’t use similar materials?
Amenities aren’t overly impressive. Like many of SOHA’s other condo projects, the building features a 24hr doorman, fitness center, common garden and washer/dryer in some units. The array of commercial space may be viewed as an amenity as well, as it allows residents convenient access to coffee, dry-cleaning, and other stuff people tend to use on a regular basis.
The neighborhood, call it SOHA or Central Harlem is popping. There are new and restored residential buildings galore and a slow trickle of new stores and restaurants. The African influence abounds with a nearby Tribal art gallery which serves coffee and light snacks, the fantastic Boulangerie across the street, and numerous African influenced restaurants and stores on 116th Street.
A must taste (according to us and the NY Times) are the red velvet cupcakes at Make My Cake on 116th and Adam Clayton. CafÃ© Society leads the hip factor with community and individual seating, great coffee drinks, so-so food and free Wi-Fi access. There is a great little “green minded” health food and sundry store, called Carrots around the corner on W.117th between Fredrick Douglas Blvd and Manhattan Avenue. While none of the big box supermarkets have laid tent poles, you can certainly find the basics. From May to October, there is a farmers market on the corner of Morningside Park @ 110th Street. ‘The Winery,’ a lovely little wine store with well-priced boutique wines is a block away from the building. For animal lovers, the newly created dog park in Morningside is one avenue away from the SOHA. Or, for an off-leash dog crowd, join the menagerie at the top of the Central Park 110th street entrance. In between the two the dog gatherings, one will find “Posh Paws,” an upscale pet store.
For residents craving a bigger gym, New York Sports Club has a location at 123rd and Fredrick Douglas with another location opening in late fall at 115st between Lenox and Fifth. During the warmer months you will find many stoops and streets filled with the sounds and smells of neighborhood gatherings. You have good public transportation – the B/C subway is 2 minutes away at W.116th Street and the 2/3 is about a 7-10 minute walk from SOHA 118. Numerous buses traverse up and down Fredrick Douglas and Adam Clayton as well as East to West buses on W.110th St.
Only time will tell if South Harlem will gentrify to the level of other areas further south in New York City. In terms of offering prices, we think the building is priced “ambitiously.” While slightly high, the prices aren’t unreasonable, especially considering this convenient section of Harlem. Another good question would be whether this building will see more upside than its neighbors. We don’t see much edge for the building aside from the units with very personal touches and compelling outdoor space.
The tax abatement is a nice benefit for buyers—but one which fades in value over time and for buyers down the road.
Overall, we rate the building a B in terms of investment potential.