THE HUB — A boutique hotel with a cigar lounge and rooftop bar is on its way to the Hub as part of a series of upcoming projects, including an elegant new plaza and a proposed affordable housing complex which could potentially transform the famed Bronx district.
The Hub, centered on East 149th Street and Melrose, Third and Willis avenues, is already a major transportation and retail center for The Bronx that sees hundreds of thousands of daily pedestrian visitors.
However, some say the area has an outdated feel, something that anticipated developments could help change, according to Michael Brady, a development consultant with the community group SoBRO.
"It’s going to update the area to make it competitive both for businesses but also as a place for residents to live and work," he said.
One new project is the Umbrella Hotel, a boutique lodging at 681 Elton Ave. that is set to open in late October after about three years of work, according to developer Manny Chadha.
He described the neighborhood as lacking in places for people to stay.
“We have a bunch of motels, but we don’t have a really boutique hotel that can offer a rooftop bar, bed and breakfast and more amenities than a regular Howard Johnson,” he said.
Other features at the hotel, with 56 rooms, will include a meeting room, a business center, a cigar lounge and free WiFi.
Chadha maintained that hotels would become more important in the Hub as more people start coming to visit the families who will be moving into new developments in the area.
"They must stay somewhere, and not everybody has a room," he said. "We’re the choice for people to come to."
The Umbrella Hotel will join the Opera House Hotel, a boutique lodging on 149th Street which boasts an 18,000 square foot fitness facility and concierge services.
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One of the new developments coming to the area is La Central, a proposed mixed-use development bordered by Bergen Avenue, Brook Avenue and East 149th Street on a 184,500 square foot site.
The project would include about 1,000 units of affordable housing across five buildings, as well as a YMCA and retail space on the ground floor. The specific stores have yet to be determined.
Housing would be available for people making between 30 and 100 percent of the Area Median Income, which is $83,900 in New York City for a family of four. People would get the units through a lottery administered by the city.
Officials hope to start work later in 2015, according to Aaron Koffman, director of affordable housing at The Hudson Companies, one of the developers on the project.
They would like to finish the first phase, consisting of three buildings and about 650 apartments, in 2017 and finish the second phase, consisting of about 360 apartments, by 2018.
"We’ve been designing the building and we still see this as a new model for affordable housing," said Koffman.
Construction on the development, which will also include space for Vistasite Eye Care and Boston Market, began in September 2013 and developer Triangle Equities hopes to be finished in a few months, according to Director of Development Elysa Goldman.
"We’re well into construction. We are on schedule and we intend to be completed this winter," she said.
A plaza filled with benches, flowers and food between 148th and 149th Streets along Third Avenue is on its way to the Hub as well.
Utilities work for Roberto Clemente Plaza, named after the baseball star, should start in November and work on the plaza itself should begin in the spring of 2015, according to Matthew Hoffman, communications director at Garrison Architects, the firm designing the space. The project should be finished by the end of 2015.
"Right now, it’s basically just like the leftovers of some kind of weird streets coming together to form the triangle," Hoffman said of the area. "It’s not a space that is comfortable to relax."
SoBRO will manage the area, which Sarit Platkin, the organization's program manager of land use and environmental planning, said she was looking forward to.
"We’re excited that it’s going to be breaking ground soon and really see it as this green oasis in the Hub district," she said.
The plaza will include a memorial to pay tribute to Clemente's humanitarian efforts and should also host cultural events like film screenings and salsa lessons, according to Brady, who said he was very enthusiastic about the development going on in the borough.
“Over the next five years, The Bronx is going to be a great place to do business, a great place for residents to enjoy,” he said. “It’s going to be a home run.”