It only takes a quick walk around Hamilton Heights to see that changes big and small are coming to this western pocket of Harlem. As many as a dozen empty storefronts are showing new signs of life, and a handful of businesses have even put up signs to announce their arrival.
Online research and conversations with some owners, workers and neighbors have revealed more details. Let's take a stroll up and down the main commercial arteries and see what's in the works:
An intriguing new awning with the name Buddha Taco Bar recently appeared in front of the old Unione space at 3628 Broadway between 149th and 150th Streets. A row of flat-screen TVs can be seen through the large black-paned windows, so it looks like visitors will find a casual vibe when the restaurant finally opens.
A few blocks north at 3671-4 Broadway between 151st and 152nd Streets, Good Stuff Juice Company has posted an "Opening Soon" sign in the window, and if the hashtags on its first Instagram post are any indication, the spot will offer healthy treats like smoothies, juices, teas, wellness shots, salads, wraps, paninis and soups.
The storefront below Grand Slam Banquet Hall on the southeast corner of Broadway and 145th Street has been under construction for quite a while, but a worker there said to expect an end-of-summer/early-fall opening for the drugstore chain CVS. Apparently the building is old and has had a number of problems.
Heading east to 540 W 145 Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, the painted plywood in front has a "Coming Soon" sign for a new bakery called, simply, Bakers. Offerings will include cakes, pies, bread, crepes and waffles.
One recent neighborhood mystery has been the storefront at 1625 Amsterdam Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets near City College, which was most recently home to sandwich shop Subsconscious but has stood empty for a while. A few months ago the facade was painted a Mediterranean blue–a hint?–and various workers inside have mentioned a Greek restaurant as well as a fast food joint. So odds are that students and locals will have a casual new Greek restaurant to patronize soon. (Updated on 3/22/18: new signs in the window–see photo above–have revealed a logo with what is presumably the name or initials of the restaurant: WP.)
On the east side of Amsterdam and 147th Street, the demolition of Childs Memorial Temple Church, famously the site of Malcolm X's funeral, is in full swing. No one was able to save it, and soon the historic space will be replaced with a brand new apartment building as well as a new home for the church.
The area above 145th Street has at least five storefronts that either have plywood outside or were recently renovated and have posted signs for new tenants. As of now, only the business at 1792 Amsterdam between 148th and 149th has announced its imminent arrival: Barepas, a new restaurant from Yency Perez, who also owns Heights Wine & Spirits in Washington Heights. Perez says his wife, who is Venezuelan, will be creating a menu serving authentic Venezuelan dishes, including "craft arepas."
On formerly sleepy Hamilton Place, there's been a burst of construction between 143rd and 144th Streets. According to a number of people I spoke with, The Brotherhood Sister/Sol youth development organization will be moving to the old laundromat space while its brand new 20,000-square-foot building rises around the corner in its original spot on 143rd Street. Check out the impressive plans here.
Halfway up the same block at 142 Hamilton Place, the new restaurant and wine bar L'Argot will be opening fairly soon. In its most recent Instagram post, the spot is calling itself "an alternative space for the arts" and promises to host exhibitions, jazz and classical concerts, plus poetry readings. Cheers to that!