By Liana Grey
Until last year, Riverview Club was just another aging rental building in northern Yonkers, on a hilly street winding above the Hudson River.
“It had really good bones,” said Randi Kahn of River Hill Residential, a New York-based development firm. And it had equally impressive views of the palisades across the river, and the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges, and the distant outline of the Manhattan skyline.
So the company bought the brick tower and converted it into condos, jumping on a luxury development trend that has helped revitalize Yonkers, a formerly industrial city just north of Riverdale in the Bronx.
In 2003, Hudson Park South, a rental complex developed by Collins Enterprises, opened along a waterfront esplanade in the city’s commercial core, which has a bourgeoning dining scene: Xavier’s, an acclaimed French, Italian and Spanish fusion restaurant, and Zuppa, an experimental Italian bistro, attract gourmands from across Westchester County.
The second phase of the project, Hudson Park North, went up five years later, along with 66 Main, a shimmering glass building just blocks from the waterfront with rents ranging from $1,400 to $3,200.
An advertisement posted to a Hudson Park building, visible from a busy Metro North train, encourages apartment hunters to rent in “SoYo”, or Southern Yonkers — an attempt to rebrand the once rundown neighborhood, which still has a less than favorable crime rate; in February, according to the Yonkers police department, 32 violent crimes took place in the third precinct, which includes the business district.
Given its grittier elements, a rise in upscale housing is just about all downtown Yonkers has in common with quieter, more residential neighborhoods to the north, including newly created enclaves like the Monarch at Ridge Hill, a “new urbanist” village with residential space, ground floor retail and pedestrian-friendly streets.
In Greystone, as Riverview Club’s surroundings are known, middle class families, young professionals looking for a bargain, and artists priced out of the five boroughs (including a woman who works with mosaic tiles) live side by side in beige brick co-op and rental towers and detached single family homes.
The enclave is also popular with a demographic that couldn’t be bothered about the latest housing prices: hawks and other wildlife, which flock to Lenoir Preserve, a 39-acre park just five minutes from Riverview Club. The local Audubon Society leads bird-watching tours, and each fall, neighborhood residents organize a hawk festival.
While Greystone is free of the urban troubles still plaguing downtown Yonkers, there’s a tradeoff: corner bodegas, and even a centrally-located retail strip, are virtually non-existent in the neighborhood. Shopping and dining require a five-minute drive to the neighboring town of Hastings-on-Hudson.
“It’s pretty far from downtown Yonkers,” said Kahn. But Hastings’ cute mom and pop shops, and the acclaimed waterfront restaurant Harvest on Hudson, leave little for residents to complain about.
In fact, half of the building’s buyers hail from Westchester County and are no strangers to the suburban lifestyle; many own cars, and are accommodated by a three-story parking garage. “We’ve had success with downsizers,” said Kahn.
“You can combine apartments,” she explained, adding that most empty nesters hope to grow old in a single-story home. A retired gym teacher, for instance, recently bought and combined two units. (Prices range from $184,000 to $555,000 for studio through two-bedroom apartments.)
That doesn’t mean young professionals — who also make up a significant portion of residents — feel out of place. First-time buyers benefit from a program that allows residents to rent a unit for six months before deciding whether to close. The program has been a success, with over 50% of units sold.
Many young tenants – especially transplants from Manhattan, who might initially be skeptical about a move north of the city – end up hooked on the building’s lively atmosphere.
With a lobby decorated with pieces by local artists, a train station a five-minute walk down the road, and a calendar full of social events, the building is more Brooklyn than suburbia – with a little bit of the Ohm, the Chelsea rental tower famed for its concerts and parties – thrown in.
“Residents have Thursday night pool night” in a ground floor amenities lounge with a fireplace, orange sofas, and wood floors, Kahn said. Earlier this year, artsy types took part in a photography contest. The winning snapshots, including one capturing the sun setting over the palisades, adorn the hallways.
“In the summer, we’ll bring musicians out by the pool,” said Kahn. And this past February, celebrity pastry chef Elisa Strauss hosted a “dessert demo” in a model unit, showing off, in equal measures, her baking skills and the gourmet features of Riverview Club’s kitchens, which have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and self-closing white lacquer drawers.
“There are lots of activities,” said Kahn. “It’s a young, social building.”