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The ‘Hamilton’ effect: Musical raises uptown Manhattan’s profile, but is there a cost?

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HAMILTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan –It's the hottest musical Broadway has seen generations, and now "Hamilton" is raising both interest and real estate values here in the neighborhood where Alexander Hamilton kept his estate.

It's a positive situation for homeowners, businesses and many public spaces, but what some people consider improvements may be challenges for some  other residents.

Stand outside of Hamilton's home on 141st Street, and within minutes, an encounter with his fans -- or at least fans of the smash hit musical about his life -- is guaranteed.

"I have the CD, to get all the dialogue for the music," said Judy, a tourist from a Midwestern city named after another founding father, Madison, Wisconsin.

"I'm totally Hamilton," she said.

She was with two friends, and they'd all waited nearly a year to travel to New York to see Hamilton, the musical.

Like them, another group of tourists had come to the iconic first treasury secretary's home, called Hamilton Grange, having had the same singular inspiration.

"Definitely the musical," said Emily Peterson, from New Providence, New Jersey.  "We've got the soundtrack."

"I got the kids interested" in visiting Hamilton Grange, her father, Mark, said, "once the musical came out."

Hamilton Heights, the neighborhood in West Harlem named after its most famous resident, as well as nearby Sugar Hill, Audubon Park and the Morris-Jumel Mansion area are all-seeing growth from the musical's popularity.

Yuien Chin, executive director of the community promotional organization Harlem One Stop, said, "We've had an increase in inquiries" on the organization's website and other media.

"Frequently, the inquiries are about the [Hamilton] house, not the neighborhood," Chin told PIX11 News.  "But it's all good because they have to go through the neighborhood to get to the house."

Chin told PIX11 News that she sees a "Hamilton" effect on the neighborhood where Hamilton had once lived.  It's a situation first reported by DNAInfo.  Agreeing with Chin are some realtors, like Bruce Robertson.

He said, in an interview with PIX11 News, that effect extends beyond the Hamilton Heights neighborhood to nearby Audubon Park and parts of Washington Heights, 15 blocks north.

He's planning a Hamilton themed open house on Sunday at a signature property he currently has listed for $1.875 million in Audubon Park.

"This living room is 45 feet long," said Robertson.  "People walk in here, and they're blown away."

It's one of 20 properties that will be featured in an Uptown homes tour on Sunday, organized by the Real Estate Board of New York.

It is big on Uptown properties right now, particularly since median sale prices in the area have shown an increase at a higher rate than any other part of Manhattan -- up more than 10 percent year to year, according to StreetEasy.

It's been a steady trend, according to Chin, of Harlem One Stop, who's also been a Hamilton Heights resident for nearly three decades.  She said that in the past few years, especially, she's seen an increase in property values, amenities and overall quality of life in her neighborhood.

"People are finally discovering something that we, as community residents, have known for a long while," Chin said, "that this is a wonderful, family-oriented community."

However, she said, one effect of the increase in property values and rents that greater interest in Hamilton has brought could have a negative impact on some of the neighborhood's longest-standing residents.

"For those people who have worked so hard over the years to take care of community," she told PIX11 News, "[they] are under developmental pressures, they're under... economic hardship because of the increasing rents.

"Any community needs a good healthy mix of economic strata," Chin continued, "and that's what makes a community.  And Harlem, we'll see where it goes."