Micah Bergdale

Micah Bergdale is something of a business prodigy. Graduating from college with a business degree when he was only 18, within three years he had started his own technical consulting company, Digital Criterion, in Chicago, and in 2005, he expanded the business to New York. For three years he worked in the Financial District and shared a two-bedroom apartment on Wall Street, before deciding at age 26 that he wanted to buy a place with a reasonable commute to work.

But with a budget of only $300,000, he found his options were limited. For weeks he made the rounds of properties in New Jersey, Queen, Brooklyn, Washington Heights, and Inwood before trying his luck in the South Bronx. His search had strict criteria: “I knew that if I lived there [in the Bronx] I only wanted to be one or two stops in from Manhattan, which kind of limited my options.

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I also knew the new Yankee Stadium and the Gateway mall were coming. I wanted to be close to the stadium because I felt that would be a more solid investment.”

On the first day of his search in the Bronx, he visited 1100 Grand Concourse, a 72-unit Art Deco coop building built in 1928, which was close to express trains running up and down both east and west sides of Manhattan. The first apartment he was shown—a 1600 square-foot three-bedroom apartment on the first floor, half a story above street level—had everything he was looking for, so the very next day he made an offer of $265,000, which was soon accepted. In October 2008, he moved in and soon brought in two roommates, whose rent defrays the cost of the mortgage.

The low cost of the apartment freed up money for extensive renovations. “I got this place for such a good deal that I was able to really gut it out and make it into my own place and own style. With a place in Manhattan, a one-bedroom, I’d be barely making mortgage payments and wouldn’t have much money left over to do anything else.”

His own style included new molding, modern contemporary closets, built-in bookshelves and other hardwood cabinetry, and an open-concept kitchen with polished concrete countertops and stainless steel appliances. He converted the living room into a home office, the dining room into a living room, and the foyer into a dining room. After the renovations were completed in the spring of 2008, the apartment was appraised at $320,000.

Now that he has a home office, he is able to conduct most of his business at home. On the few days a week he has to commute to the Financial District, it takes only 45 minutes.

Half of the residents in the building are renters and the other half are shareholders, many, like Micah, recent transplants from Manhattan. He has made good friends in the building and talks to his neighbors every day, a stark change from his Wall Street building where he lived for two years without ever knowing his neighbors. He has also gotten to know people because with his business background he was quickly put forward as the new treasurer of the coop board.

Through his work on the board he’s been able to keep abreast of new developments in the neighborhood and recently heard that Donald Trump’s people have been inquiring about apartment houses on the Grand Concourse and that George Steinbrenner might be buying a whole block of land for redevelopment next to the new Yankee Stadium.

With projects like these in the air, Micah is optimistic about the future. “In next year or so there’re still going to be good deals but once the new Yankee Stadium and the new mall comes in, that’s when I feel like the gold rush will end up starting.”