How a 2009 Rezoning is Transforming A Bronx Neighborhood Today

E 138th Street at Third Avenue is buzzing with construction as 4 buildings are currently rising along this corridor where once stood single and two story industrial buildings.

With all the plans for rezonings being shoved down our throats, starting with Jerome Avenue and certainly not least of all, the Southern Boulevard plan, we decided to take a look and see exactly what happened in one area of the South Bronx.

In 2009, a 30 block area of Mott Haven, known as the Lower Concourse, was rezoned to accommodate new residential development, skyscrapers along the waterfront on the Harlem River, condos and the likes in what was then mostly light industrial (and vacant), auto shops, and storage facilities.

Soon after, sales began increasing in the area.

From 2002-2008 right before the rezoning, sales in the area were modest with an average sales price of $1,322,047 and an average of $132 per square foot.

Sales trends within the Lower Concourse Rezoning Area

But once the rezoning took effect, prices increased 258.2% to an average of $4,735,390 selling at an average of $289 per square foot (a 118.94% increase) from 2010-2016 as speculators began buying up properties in the hopes of cashing in on the real estate boom that was heading into The Bronx (including properties purchased by Somerset and Chetrit who plan on developing 1,500 units in their isolated “Piano District”).

When a rezoning is announced, developers and landowners salivate like dogs, foaming at the mouth at the prospect of huge profit margins; properties and vacant land are sold at speculative prices way above market value.

In 2014, the first development within the rezoning area opened: Morris Court, an “affordable housing along Morris Avenue and E 144th Street, directly across from Lincoln Hospital, containing 201 units marketed towards individuals and families making anywhere from $28,595 to $90,700 a year―significantly higher than the actual median income of an area where 56.4% of families make under $24,999 a year.

Since then, a flurry of activity has risen within the zoning area and blocks along its periphery.

221 E 138th Street, the first market-rate condos going up in the Lower Concourse Rezoning District

As of this writing, there are currently seven buildings under construction, including market rate condos on E 138th Street where the developer is hoping to get $399,000 for studios and upwards of $599,000 for two bedroom units.

This tally doesn’t include Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group’s 101 Lincoln Avenue demolition to pave way for their 1,300 units in roughly 7 buildings along the waterfront at the foot of the Third Avenue Bridge as groundbreaking still hasn’t occurred although the lots are being prepped as this is being written. (Note: These properties are within a block of the rezoning area).

101 Lincoln Avenue has recently been demolished to make way for 1,300 market-rate luxury apartments across two lots in 6 towers on either side of the Third Avenue Bridge

Almost 2,000 units of housing are in various stages of construction whether demolition of former structures on proposed sites or almost completed buildings like 530 Exterior Street.

Of these units, more than half will be market-rate housing leaving out the overwhelming majority of area residents and creating a further divide of haves and have nots and a tale of two cities within a borough and a community long plagued by extreme poverty.

See: In 2014 we documented the Lower Concourse Rezoning Area before any major changes took place

Our borough and The South Bronx is quickly changing and some would argue for the better but for myself and countless others, the question becomes, better for whom?

All of this is happening in what is still the poorest congressional district in the nation. The city is quick to implement changes that are transformative to the social and economic fabric of a neighborhood but does little to actually work towards changing the economic outcomes and futures of its current residents so that they too may prosper and be uplifted with the coming tide.

Explore the map below to see what’s going on in and around the Lower Concourse Rezoning Area, let us know if there’s something we missed and should be included.


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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.