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Class of ’80

Room with an Urban View

Weary of the corporate life, Jane Mendelson C’80 GCP’82 fantasized about finding a charming place to convert into a bed-and-breakfast. She finally happened upon it–in Harlem.
   
"I connected to it immediately," she says of the handsome 19th-century brownstone she bought and renovated on a scenic block at Fifth Avenue near 125th Street. "The combination of the location and the woodwork hooked me on the house."
   
Though it may not be a destination typically associated with innkeeping, the price was attractive and Harlem possesses a rich cultural history that more tourists have begun to appreciate. Since the Urban Jem Guest House opened last June, many visitors to New York have made it their home away from home. According to Mendelson, it serves the needs of a neighborhood that "really hasn’t had any lodging" for three decades.
   
In recent years Harlem has started to undergo another renaissance, observes Mendelson. "It’s really as safe to live here as anywhere else in New York, and there are tons of businesses here. There are hospitals and schools and cultural facilities. You figure, where are people staying when they’re either coming to see these things, or to work?"
   
To get the word out Mendelson posted fliers at local churches and museums and created a Web site (www.urbanjem.com). The strategy has succeeded. "I enjoy so many of my guests," she says. "They come from all over the world"–tourists from Japan and the Netherlands, authors from West Africa, vacationers from rural Maryland.
   
Having previously worked in construction and housing forecasting, Mendelson says she likes the flexibility, the opportunity to work at home and the creativity afforded by her new job. But it hasn’t been all scones and antiques, she warns would-be innkeepers. Urban Jem was definitely a diamond in the rough, requiring a year of renovations, and for the first six weeks after she moved in, Mendelson was forced to live with no heat or hot water.
   
   
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Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/31/99