Brokers Weekly

Midtown proves its mettle

By: Bill Cresenzo
Published: 1/21/2009Source: Brokers Weekly

The Flatiron Building is one of the most iconic in New York City, or, for that matter, the United States - it's seen in countless televisions shows, commercials and movies.


But what goes on in the neighborhood - appropriately named the Flatiron District - is the big draw for residents.


Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership, said her organization considers the Flatiron District to be bounded by 21st Street to the North, 29th Street to the South (although some say the boundary extends to Union Square), Sixth Avenue to the West and Third Avenue to the East.


Whatever the case, while it's known as one of Manhattan's smallest neighborhoods, the area hasn't always been known as the Flatiron District. Like many neighborhoods in Manhattan, the name was coined in the 1980s by real estate brokers as the area moved from more a commercial, predominantly publishing and paper base, to residential.


And what better way to honor the area by naming it after the iron-shaped building which was one of the city's original skyscrapers?


"The neighborhood is really beautiful," said Frances Katzen of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "You are 10 blocks from Union Square, you are in the heart of Fifth Avenue and you can cross over into Chelsea. It's in the middle of it all, but it still maintains its neighborhood sort of vibe. It's become more family-oriented and before, it really was known as a very edgy area. Now it's a mix, from the empty nesters to the young urban professionals."


Brown said the Partnership was founded two years ago as a way to keep the area tidy and to draw in new business. Workers with the Partnership can be seen all over Flatiron, sweeping, picking up trash and erasing graffiti. The Partnership also contracts security guards who patrol the neighborhood.


Developers have taken a lot of notice and several high profile projects have sprouted as the area continues to grow in popularity.


One Madison Park is being developed by Slazer Development. The 51-story tower's literature claims that "it's not lonely at the top, it's just very, very exclusive." It will have a penthouse with an asking price of $45 million.


The Savanna Fund is converting the former printing house and bank at 141 Fifth Avenue into 34 high- end units while Tessler Development Group is building 240 Park Avenue South, where prices range from $1.2 million to $1.8 million.


Other recent projects include the Jade Jagger-designed Jade at 16 West 19th Street. Developed by The Cooper Group, the condo/rental building was priced from $975,000 to $1.4 million; Metro Buildings' five-unit conversion of a former paper factory, The Paper Factory Condos at 52 West 22nd Street; Walter & Samuels conversion at 186 Fifth Avenue, which has seven units priced at an average of $2.3 million, and; The Emory at 27 West 19th Street, which has 15 full-floor residences developed by Skyway Development Group. The building has 10 units for sale at just over $5 million.


"I have been selling the location, and the prices have been going up and up and up," Katzen said.


The average price for an apartment in the Flatiron District is $3.965 million. And perhaps the location is one of the best things that Flatiron has going for it. Brokers say that they tell potential buyers that they are in the heart of Manhattan, where the skyscrapers become midrises, and where there are several subway lines to take them anywhere they want to go in New York City. The district also boasts Madison Square Park and arguably the most famous burger place in the city, Shake Shack.


"The best thing is that we have an amazing assortment of restaurants," said Brown, whose Partnership website lists more than 150 restaurants in Flatiron.


Steve Ganz, managing director of CORE group marketing, which is handling sales at 141 Fifth Avenue, and who lives in the neighborhood, said, "There are dozens and dozens of causal restaurants. I love it here. It's central, so anywhere I want to go in Manhattan, I can get there."


Maria Manuche, a broker with the Corcoran Group, said that she considers Flatiron "the West Village without the West Village prices."


She said that Flatiron isn't a "cookie cutter" neighborhood and the energy is palpable.


"I was just having lunch there and there is a lot of positive energy," Manuche said. "People were talking about serious things in the wake of such significant recent happenings, but the energy was so positive."


"I think that Flatiron is a downtown neighborhood that people sometimes forget to put on their wish lists," said Adina Azarian of Adina Equities. She said she loves the neighborhood, although it doesn't have the tree-lined, brownstone streets of other Manhattan nabes.


But more restaurants and shops are opening on the side streets, she said. "I think Flatiron has a lot to offer these days," she said.