The Wall Street Journal

The pace of transformation of Harlem’s 125th Street is picking up speed, attracting developers and retailers who want to be part of the thoroughfare’s ascent.

Earlier this month, developer Greystone & Co. paid $11.5 million through a bankruptcy auction to buy a group of lots facing East 125th Street and a parcel on East 126th Street. Greystone said it intends to build a mix of about 75 market-rate and affordable apartments with retail on the ground floor.

Across the street is Continuum Co. ’s planned development of almost 700 apartments and 80,000 square feet of retail space. And a short walk to the west is developer Jeff Sutton ’s project, which will be anchored by a Whole Foods Market .

“You have major developers coming in and buying up great properties,” said Jeffrey Simpson, head of Greystone’s property development. “There are already great retailers on 125th Street and more coming,” he said.

Many real-estate executives and brokers point to the opening in 2000 of Harlem USA—a retail complex at 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard—as the spur that brought national brands such as Old Navy and Disney to 125th Street’s commercial corridor.

To be sure, the recession stalled and derailed some development plans along the street. The former developer of the property at 69-75 E. 125th St. recently acquired by Greystone partly blamed the economic downturn for his project’s difficulties, according to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed in 2013. Neither the former developer, Saadia Shapiro, nor his attorney returned requests for comment.