New York’s historic Flatiron Building has a new owner.
Jacob Garlick emerged as the owner with a bid of $190 million during an auction held Wednesday outside the state’s Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan.
The auction was ordered by a Supreme Court judge after the previous owners, led by a consortium of real estate companies, couldn’t agree about renovations and future tenants for the trophy property.
There was speculation that one member of the former ownership group might buy out its partners, but Garlick wasn’t part of the previous team. He’s the founding partner and managing partner of Abraham Trust, a growth equity venture fund.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine, since I’m 14 years old,” he told news channel NY1 after the bidding ended. “I’ve worked every day of my life to be in this position.”
Designed by D. H. Burnham and Company of Chicago, with Daniel Burnham and Frederick Dinkelberg as the lead architects, the 22-story steel-framed building occupies a triangular site bounded by Broadway, Fifth Avenue and East 22rd Street, with East 23rd Street grazing its northern tip. The first skyscraper built north of 14th Street in Manhattan, it opened in 1902 as the headquarters for a construction firm, the Fuller Company, and was originally known as the Fuller Building.
After Fuller sold the property in 1925 to an investment syndicate, it became known as the Flatiron Building because of its three-sided shape, like a clothes iron. It was designated a city landmark in 1966, and the surrounding area is known as the Flatiron District. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
“The triangular site on which this turn of the century French Renaissance skyscraper was built gave to it a special character and a poetic quality,” states the 1966 designation report prepared by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“As seen from the north, it has been compared, by many writers, to a great ship sailing up the Avenue. Whether seen at night, reflected in the glistening pavement during a thundershower, or fighting for its life in a blizzard, it has a quality of directional motion with its prowlike mass towering above the beholder. To the New York of 1902 this building represented the very essence of modernity.”
Though its walls are covered with ornament, there is “not one square inch remaining flush and plain,” the LPC report continues. “Nevertheless, because of its prowlike quality, it still enjoys a feeling of daring slenderness and height, unequalled by many later structures.”
One of the best-known structures in New York City, the Flatiron Building is currently vacant. The last office tenant, MacMillan Publishers, occupied all 21 office floors but moved out in 2019, and street-level retail tenants also left. The former owners had begun a $100 million renovation to upgrade its mechanical systems and restore its exterior. One issue was whether to keep it as a single tenant office building, adapt it for multiple office tenants, or introduce new uses.
The consortium that owned 75 percent of the building included GFP Real Estate, Sorgente Group and ABS Real Estate Partners. Attorney Nathan Silverstein owned the rest. When the parties couldn’t agree on plans for the property, the Supreme Court ordered that it be put up for auction. The sale by Mannion Auctions drew a sizable crowd and lasted about 45 minutes. Bidding started at $50 million and rose in $500,000 increments.
Current zoning allows commercial use, including offices, stores, residences, a hotel or a combination. Because the Flatiron Building is a city-designated landmark, any changes to the exterior must be authorized by New York’s preservation commission, which already approved renovation plans by the previous owner.
Garlick has not disclosed what he intends to do with the building, other than to preserve it. “We’re honored to be a steward of this historic building,” he told NY1, “It will be our life’s mission to preserve its integrity forever.”