Hell’s Kitchen, Once the ‘Wild West,’ Now Undergoing Rapid Gentrification

April 30, 2015

There’s yet to be an exact agreed-upon theory as to where the name Hell’s Kitchen came from, but most historians agree that it had something to do with the poor tenement conditions and general filth of the neighborhood in the 19th century. Its reputation didn’t get any better in the 20th century, though. After the repeal of prohibition, the area became overrun with organized crime, and until the 1980s it was known as a home base for several gangs. Today, Hell’s Kitchen is no longer the “Wild West,” but rather a rapidly gentrifying community ripe for new development.

A neighborhood profile today in the Times looks at the transformation of the neighborhood, also called Clinton or Midtown West, which is generally defined as the area from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River between 34th to 59th Streets. Summed up, “New buildings are going up, and older ones are being converted to high-end residences. The development of Hudson Yards and the High Line just to its south and the addition of the Time Warner Center on its northeast border have spurred growth. Prices have gone up but are still generally lower than in surrounding neighborhoods.”

Hell’s Kitchen residents have mixed feelings about the changes coming to their home. Christine Berthet, the chair of local Community Board 4, has  lived on West 38th Street since 1980. She says “we’re afraid of becoming a luxury ghetto,” referring to a lack of subsidized rentals, the tendency for apartments in older buildings to get renovated and seek sky-high rents, and an influx of higher-end commercial tenants pushing out existing spots like laundromats. On the other hand, Linda Ashley, the chair of the West 44th Street Better Block Association/Friends of Pier 84, who remembers moving into the neighborhood in 1982 and not knowing how to get from home to work safely, welcomes the new family-friendly vibe.

Port Authority Bus Terminal

In addition to housing the not-so-attractive Port Authority Bus Terminal and Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, as well as the gas stations, car dealerships, and plumbing supply companies on Eleventh Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen boasts some great cultural attractions like Baryshnikov Arts Center, New World Stages, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, and the Frank Gehry-designed Pershing Square Signature Center.

BIG 57th street pyramid
BIG’s 625 West 57th Street

Most of Hell’s Kitchen’s side streets are lined with low-rise tenements and brownstones, but 42nd and 57th Streets are on the rise. At 605 West 42nd Street, a 61-story rental building is under construction and will offer 1,100 units when constructed. The 1930 New York Telephone Company Building at 425 West 50th Street, an Art Deco masterpiece built by Ralph Walker, has been rechristened as Stella Tower, a 51-unit luxury condominium with a $14 million penthouse. And let’s not forget about BIG’s massive pyramid at 625 West 57th Street, where 709 luxury rental units will soon become available along with 45,000 square feet of retail space. How do the prices stack up? According to data from Brown Harris Stevens cited in the Times, “From 2013 to 2014, the median price of all apartments sold rose 4 percent, to $885,000 from $848,500. That followed an increase of 2 percent from 2012 to 2013; 3 percent from 2011 to 2012; and 8 percent from 2010 to 2011.”

Do you think Hell’s Kitchen is the next “it” neighborhood? Let us know in the comments.

[Via NYT]


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