The Flatiron district gets its name from the triangular Beaux Arts building that marks the intersection of 23rd Street, Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Built in 1902, the steel-frame building is the organizing landmark for one of Manhattan's most continually dynamic and colorful neighborhoods. "Architecturally you have these fantastic cast iron buildings," says Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Michael Kafka, "which here tend to be a little taller than they would be in Soho or Tribeca." Artists and photographers,” he says, “colonized the area for its tall ceilings and great light.”
Fueled by a wave of startups and media and advertising companies in the 1980s, the neighborhood has largely left its more industrial, artsy past behind. The area is now a hub for fashionistas and design mavens, and dot com and ad agency types. Bounded by Union Square to the south and Madison Square Park to the north, the Flatiron district rubs against the West Village at Seventh Avenue and ends at Park Avenue to the east. Its patchwork of industrial lofts and condos blend loft-like living with top-notch amenities.
One Madison Park, a new 60-story tower on the corner of Madison Avenue and 23rd Street, recalls the pre-recession heydey of upmarket development in New York. It's flush with 12,000 square feet of amenities, including a spa, an indoor pool, and a fitness center with a lounge and terrace. There's not only a 24-hour doorman but also a concierge, and valet parking if you need it. Charlie Trotter's new restaurant occupies the ground floor, which also has a Rem Koolhaas-designed lobby and the East Coast screening room of Creative Artists Agency. The 7500-square-foot penthouse—at $45 million—is the sole apartment left, with a 580-square-foot wraparound terrace and 360-degree views of Manhattan. For that price you get stellar views of the Manhattan skyline, along with 11-foot ceilings and white oak plank floors, a Chestron home automation system, and automatic shades—for the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the apartment. It comes with Bosch and Gaggenau appliances and custom cabinets. The bath features Italian travertine and a custom double-vanity, Zuma bathtubs, and Duravit wall-mounted toilets.
A fraction of that amount will buy you a second-floor pre-war loft at 139 West 19th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. For $3.995 million, says Corcoran broker David Strah, you get a fully renovated 3-bedroom and 2.5-bath coop with central AC, spanning 2800 square feet. In the south-facing great room, four large windows stretch up to 14-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceilings. From there, glass pocket doors open up to a library and den with built-in bookshelves. The large chef's kitchen is stocked with a wine cooler, a Sub Zero refrigerator, and a 6-burner Garland stove. One bedroom has a loft accessible by a shelf-style metal ladder, and the master bedroom has four walk-in closets, traversed by a ladder that slides across the wall. In the master bath are Waterworks fixtures and a huge soaking tub and walk-in steam shower. But for most, the 600-square-foot architect-designed deck of African Ipe wood will be the deal-maker.
Focused on design is The Jade, steps from Fifth Avenue at 16 West 19th Street. There are four units left in this 14-story building. Two are 1138-square-foot 1-bedroom 2-bath units for $1.25 and $1.35 million on the eighth and tenth floors. The converted pre-war building, is, says Elliman broker Kafka, very design-forward, with an award-winning "pod" concept connecting the kitchen and one bathroom together. The "pod" divides the space in a way that makes it easy to use part of the room as an office. French doors open to the south in both apartments, which have 10.5-foot ceilings, wood floors, and appliances by Miele, SubZero, Fisher Paykel and Ariston. Another draw is an indoor pool, a sauna and exercise and steam rooms on the roof, and terraces on the roof deck, complete with lounge chairs, a reflecting pool, and a lounge with a flat-screen TV and wet bar.
When you're not indoors, there’s lots to do in the district.The Joyce Theater, the avant-garde dance venue, lies a few blocks west. The Victorian-era Hotel Chelsea on 23rd Street, for years the home of artists like Jasper Johns, Bob Dylan, and Allen Ginsberg, still entices people with temporary digs and drinks in the bar below. The Greenmarket enlivens Union Square nearby, where hungry cooks and restaurant chefs descend for top-notch ingredients.
Much of the area's daily bustle is around shopping. ABC Carpet emporium hawks chandeliers and furniture. Fifth Avenue has trendy chains like J. Crew and upscale boutiques like Paul Smith and Searle. Art supply and furniture stores pepper the side streets. Dining is a treat at Manhattan's top nouveau American restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and Union Square Café. The bar scenes are as lively as the dining rooms, with a more casual vibe. Floyd Cardoz's Tabla, on the park, serves haute fusion cuisine that combines Indian flavors with Western techniques. And City Bakery is one of Manhattan's top sweet shacks, with chocolate cookies, delicate tarts, and bright salads. In Madison Square Park, one green space in this lively area, is restaurateur Danny Meyers' much-loved Shake Shack, a local staple for burgers and dogs when all you want to do is sit on a bench and people-watch.
Diane Mehta writes about real estate, travel, and other topics for The New York Times, Worth, Fast Company, Elle Décor and other national publications. Her last piece in Promenade was on living near Lincoln Center.