HARLEM — The latest sign of gentrification on Harlem's Frederick Douglass Boulevard isn't a Starbucks or an upscale wine shop, both of which already exist uptown.
Instead, it is a branch of Tribeca Pediatrics, which is opening a 2,500-square-foot space at West 114th Street on the site of what used to be a 99 cents store. The new arrival is a sign that the area, with its restaurant row and new condos, has crossed the threshold, real estate broker Faith Hope Consolo said.
"They are one of the game changers. What we are seeing in neighborhoods where this practice has gone is that others have followed," said Consolo, who runs the retail leasing and sales division for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. "Retailers are like sheep."
The practice has a total of 30 doctors and was founded by Dr. Michel Cohen, who likes to locate branches of his business in up-and-coming areas. The Harlem site will launch with one doctor who lives in the area and expand depending on how well it does, said Cohen.
"I started in Williamsburg eight years ago and now it's becoming like SoHo. No one eight years ago one would think to go there for pediatrics," Cohen said. "I'd like to think we create a nice vibe for the neighborhood."
Consolo said that includes an upscale look, which in retail, makes a difference.
Frederick Douglass Boulevard between West 110th and West 125th streets is one of the best examples of Harlem's rapid gentrification in recent years. New restaurants such as Harlem Tavern, built on the site of a former gas station, Bier International and others have brought crowds to the neighborhood.
New condos have brought the people to support local businesses. According to U.S. Census figures, Central Harlem South experienced an 11 percent increase in population during the last decade.
The Aloft Hotel opened at West 124th Street and a new mall at West 125th street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard will host a Joe's Crab Shack.
"They are like the Cadillac or foreign car of that business," Consolo said of Tribeca Pediatrics. "They are not a walk-in clinic type. They spend a lot of money improving the space and making sure they know who the customer is."
Cohen said he caters to a more upscale population at some of his other locations such as TriBeCa or the Upper East Side, but he wants the Harlem location to be more community oriented. While he plans to do a nice build-out at the former 99 cents store, the Harlem site will accept managed care Medicaid, he said.
"Our goal is to serve the local community and to have people there benefit from our service, which is very high end," Cohen said.
Jonathon Kahn, a member of the steering committee of the North Star Neighborhood Association and the father of a 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old daughter, said the area is in need of pediatricians and that Tribeca Pediatrics might be "filling a hole."
"There aren't quite enough pediatricians in the neighborhood with regular hours that cater to working families— particularly ones that open early in the morning," Khan said.
He said the clinic is a sign of gentrification, which doesn't have to be negative.
"If the practice is welcoming and extends itself to the larger diversity of the community, then real benefits are possible," he said.
Cohen is also into residential development, and plans to build a six-story apartment building on an empty lot on Carroll Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
"Harlem is ripe and I'm in the stage of my business where I can afford to do it the right way," Cohen said. "I want the practice to be visible and be a hub."