The neighborhood called West Harlem by the locals is known as Manhattanville to neighborhood newcomers. The area is culturally diverse and might be considered a microcosm of the city as a whole.
Columbia University has recently expanded into the area, which is attracting student residents from all over the world. Together with students from the City College of New York and young professionals fleeing higher prices in other neighborhoods, this influx of younger residents has brought with it more restaurants and bars on W 125th Street to serve this clientele. There are also new ventures, like a rock-climbing gym, to cater to the interests of these students and young professionals. At the same time, there are many small, family-owned shops and restaurants that have been anchors of the neighborhood for multiple generations.
The area has been through a housing upgrade, as older properties have been renovated and abandoned properties have been razed to make room for new development. There are still reasonably priced apartments available. Young professionals are finding that there is a certain cachet to living in West Harlem. It provides a convenient commute to the city and all of its amenities, while providing a sense of escape at the end of a long work day.
While rentals are popular with the student population, the young professionals are delighted to find pre-war brownstones, pre-war co-ops (including some income-capped HDFCs for lower- and middle-income buyers), and post-war condos that they can afford, although prices are rising. Some new low-rise developments, sporting virtual doormen and desired amenities, are cropping up.