Flatiron District Draws Tech Companies, Families

May 8, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
The building where the offices of online auctioneer Ebay will be housed
More tech companies are moving in or near the Flatiron District, such as eBay's Technology Center of Excellence at 625 Sixth Ave. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Tech giant eBay’s move into the Flatiron District has cemented the area as a tech hub. eBay will rub shoulders with Tumblr, Gilt Groupe, and a plethora of start-ups and tech firms that have chosen the Flatiron, or Union Square, area to settle.

“It’s very central, and we have the opportunity to be right in the middle, in the thick of things,” said Johnna Hoff, an eBay spokesperson. The company announced last week it is opening a technology center at 625 Sixth Avenue, which will include space for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Real estate companies he works with in the area are looking for tech companies to lease space to, said Scott J. Aiese, director of capital services with Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“The tech companies want to be there, for sure,” Aiese said. “The open floor plans and the high ceiling heights are really attractive for them.”

The retail condominuim 141-145 Fifth Avenue, in the Flatiron District
The retail condominuim 141-145 Fifth Avenue, in the Flatiron District, which recently sold for $46 million and houses Cole Haan and HSBC Bank. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Attorney Christopher F. Meatto specializes in digital rights. He joined the wave of individuals and smaller companies sharing space in the Flatiron District as part of a collective called ThirdFloor, explaining the many attractions of the area.

“It’s outside the main business, crowded, financial, legal, advertising district,” Meatto said. “All the startup companies and venture capitalists, they’re all in the neighborhood. It’s not triple AAA space but it’s space with some character and charm. It’s very pleasant—you have Union Square, you’re on the border of the village, you’re in a walkable zone to get just about anywhere one might want to go.”

Meatto said a team of four can get open workspace for around $1,500, though something more private could quickly cost double.

A report by Eastern Consolidated does note that the combination of lower rents and higher prices paid for office buildings could point toward strong retail, and “suggests that landlords have a more favorable outlook for the area’s future relative to other neighborhoods.”

At a Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District event in March, Stephen L. Glascock, president of Anbau Enterprises, spoke about the tech phenomenon.

“As opposed to dot coms, this is a new field of business, where young people today are so tech-savvy,” Glascock said. “We avoided dot coms when they came out, but these guys, they’re working. … They’re not looking to become a millionaire overnight.”

“This industry is here to stay,” Glascock added.

Tech firms, and other companies, are also increasingly moving into Union Square, according to the Union Square Partnership’s 2012 Commercial Report. Yelp opened its New York headquarters at 100–104 Fifth Avenue last year, the most high profile addition. Ground floor rents around the area range between $400 and $450 a square foot.

Signifying its tech presence, a new school, Washington Irving Educational Campus on Irving Place, will be coming soon one block from Union Square Park, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced.

Families in Flatiron

Open floor plans, historic buildings, and proximity to both multiple neighborhoods—including West Village, Union Square, and Chelsea—and subway stops have been among the reasons behind Flatiron’s popularity.

“It’s really a hotbed for families to live in, and people that might need a little bit more space,” said Aiese of Massey Knakal. “It depends what you’re looking for, but Flatiron’s pretty unique. … I think it’s probably one of the best areas.”

Multifamily building sales in Flatiron, with seven already in 2012 after nine last year, are surging forward, according to the Eastern Consolidated report. The average price per square foot for such buildings has jumped from just under $600 to almost $800, according to the report. Nearly 2 million square feet has been added since 2006 in the area, according to the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership.

On real estate website StreetEasy, no multifamily properties came up in a search for the Flatiron District. Practically all of the 127 listings, with a median price of $1.7 million, median size of 1,320 square feet, and median price per square foot of $1,326, were condominiums.

Average rents for housing in Gramercy/Flatiron are near the middle of all Manhattan districts in a March Rental Summary by CitiHabitats.

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