Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park sells for $19.7 million



The historic Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park, where artists and other creative businesses have rented studios for decades, was just bought for $19.7 million, but the new owners say it there was no reason to fear drastic changes.

“The previous owner did a great job keeping the property as it is,” said Savas Er, director of Chicago-based North American Real Estate. “It’s a well-oiled machine, so we don’t expect any changes at this stage.”

Er and his partner David “Buzz” Ruttenberg, the founder of real estate developer Belgravia Group, purchased the three-story terracotta building at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and North Avenue from Berger Realty Group. It was built around 1918, converted into artists’ studios in the late 1960s, and Berger, who bought the property in the 1990s, has retained its upper floors as affordable studios even as the surrounding neighborhood was gentrifying.

Erica Berger, owner of Berger Realty Group, which also owns the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Ave., said she wasn’t just looking for the highest bidder. She wanted a local buyer who would support the building community.

“It’s one of the only remaining buildings in Wicker Park with spaces like this, so we were looking for someone with a similar philosophy, and Buzz is a huge arts philanthropist,” he said. she declared.

Berger won’t be surprised if Flat Iron finally sees a change. The new owners must generate enough revenue to maintain and improve the century-old structure, while preserving its artistic heritage.

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“Owning old buildings isn’t easy,” she said, “so I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m optimistic and hope Savas and Buzz understand.”

Competition for the 63,000 square foot property at 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. was intense, with more than 100 investors expressing interest, according to Patrick Forkin, director of Baum Realty Group, which brokered the deal. Brokers began sifting through potential buyers, identifying those with the financial clout to close the deal and a commitment to Berger’s vision.

“We had a wide range to choose from, but when it came to Buzz and Savas, we were very confident,” Forkin said.

Er said the location, central to the nightlife and shopping district of Wicker Park and close to the CTA Blue Line stop on Damen Ave., helps make Flat Iron a worthwhile purchase. About half of its 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space is available, including a corner location left vacant when Bank of America’s lease expired in June, and they’re already talking to tenants potential, including several entertainment venues and restaurants.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a historic place,” Er said. “We don’t often see properties like this come to market, especially in large buildings like this.”

It is also possible to transform the building’s giant roof into an amenity such as a fitness center, lounge or cafe, Er added. But it’s far and it will take some planning.

“I would love to see something new on the roof, but is it something we plan to do immediately? No way. We want to own this building for a very long time.

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