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Frederick Wigdor

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Wall Street Journal

Yorkville Is Chugging Along

As completion of a subway line in the Yorkville section of Manhattan inches nearer, the neighborhood is seeing new businesses and apartment bidding wars.

Long considered an affordable alternative to the rest of the Upper East Side, Yorkville, which runs from 79th to 96th streets between Third Avenue and the East River, has been plagued by poor transportation. Residents have relied on bus service or a healthy walk to trains on Lexington Avenue, making commutes to commercial sections of the borough a chore.

The subway extension along Second Avenue, an idea that dates from the 1920s, promises to change that. But for the past decade, residents have had to cope with construction zones and closed stores.

Now, transit plans show the first phase of the project is scheduled for completion this year, making the area more attractive to prospective buyers.

“The subway is inevitable,” said Barbara van Beuren, managing director of Anbau, a developer of high-end residential property. “If it’s six months in one direction or another, I don’t think it really matters. It’s real.”

Anbau is developing Citizen360, an 84-unit condominium on 89th Street and First Avenue that opens in spring 2017. Sales begin next month, and Ms. van Beuren said there is mounting interest from families, foreign investors and retirees in the suburbs.

Donna London, 58 years old, traded her Chappaqua, N.Y., home three years ago for a two-bedroom on York Avenue, an area she lived in during the 1980s. “I like to walk, so I love that the train is far,” said Ms. London, adding she hopes more stores and restaurants open on Second Avenue when the subway is finished.

More businesses are already popping up. Annie & Co. Knitting & Needlepoint moved to Second Avenue from Madison Avenue two years ago because of the low rent and a long lease.

“I thought I’d be on the forefront coming down here,” said owner Annie Goodman. “I know with the subway the rents will go up and more fun shopping will occur down here.”

Bidding wars also are being waged. Teri Noren, an agent with real estate agency Bond New York, said she received 80 inquiries in one week about a one-bedroom home in a building on 90th Street, and multiple bids from people who hadn’t seen the place—the open house isn’t scheduled until Feb. 7. “I have so much interest in one apartment that I spend all day fielding responses,” said Ms. Noren. “There should be a bidding war.”

And prices are rising. The average price for an apartment in Yorkville was $1.95 million and $1,627 a square foot in 2015, up from $1.88 million and $1,505 a square foot in 2013, according to Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. Average rent was $3,703 a month in 2015, up 13% from $3,269 in 2013, Corcoran reports.

Yorkville has “always been well-served, but now there are new things to try,” said Beth Fisher, a senior managing director of Corcoran Sunshine. “That sense of discovery and adventure is something that has come back to the east side.”

The strong schools, high-quality hospitals and world-class museums within walking distance have always made the area desirable, she said, but the Second Avenue Subway is a “game-changer.”

Parks: Carl Schurz Park has playgrounds, gardens, dog runs and a rink for roller hockey. It runs north along the East River starting at 84th Street and includes views of Gracie Mansion, an 18th-century structure that since the 1940s has been the mayor’s official residence. For soccer, swimming, flag football and other sports, residents flock to Asphalt Green, a nonprofit recreational campus on 90th Street and York Avenue. A waste-transfer station is planned for 91st Street and the East River despite neighborhood opposition.

Restaurants: For beer and brats, the Heidelberg is a reminder of the area’s German roots. Italian fare can be found at Erminia. Newcomers include a branch of Luke’s Lobster and a Whole Foods Market where residents can get food truck-style treats with indoor service. Drinking haunts include the Writing Room, formerly Elaine’s, and the Drunken Munkey for cocktails and Indian specialties.

Transportation: When completed, the first section of the Second Avenue Subway’s Q line will run from 96th Street to 63rd Street, with stops at 86th and 72nd streets. Meanwhile, the closest line is the 4/5/6 on Lexington Avenue at 86th Street and the 6 on 96th Street. There are also crosstown buses on 79th, 86th and 96th streets.

If You're Browsing For a Home...

425 E. 79th Street., 15J
This is a two-bedroom apartment with one bathroom and a den/office. The building has an elevator, a live-in superintendent and a doorman. It allows pets.

Square Footage: 875

Property Plus: The living room is lined with windows

Property Minus: The bedrooms have limited closet space.

Listing Date: Jan. 11

Listing Agents: Frederick, Geoff and Karen Widdor at Halstead Property.

Open House: Sunday from 2 to 3:30pm.

Friday, January 29, 2016