Picture this: How a Swedish photo center found its way to Park Ave. South

Newmark’s Geoffrey Newman first found Fotografiska while on vacation in Stockholm
By Rich Bockmann | August 24, 2017 05:10PM

From left: 281 Park Avenue South, Newmark’s Geoffrey Newman and an exhibit at Fotografiska (Credit: Fotografiska)

In the dog days of August when many of real estate’s dealmakers are away on vacation, there are deals to be done.

That’s how Fotografiska, a cutting-edge photography museum based in Sweden, found its way to Aby Rosen’s architectural landmark at 281 Park Avenue South.

“It is the number one tourist destination in Stockholm,” said Newmark Knight Frank’s Geoffrey Newman, who brokered the deal after he first visited the museum while traveling back in 2012. “Ask anybody what it is that you should do, and the first thing they say is go over to Fotografiska.”

Newman had stopped in to see an opening for the famed photographer David LaChapelle and was impressed by the center’s concept, which he described as “a museum turned on its head.”

He started talking with the owners about plans for a global expansion that would start in New York City, Newman told The Real Deal, but the talks fizzled and ended up on the back burner.

In the meantime, the Newmark broker got acquainted with the area around Park Avenue South and East 22nd Street, where the center just signed a lease to take the entire 45,000-square-foot building.

Newman had worked with Ian Bruce Eichner to assemble a site nearby, where the developer built his 82-unit condo tower at 45 East 22nd Street. In 2014, Newman brokered the sale of the former United Charities building at 287 Park Avenue South to the Chinese development firm Cheerland Investments for $128 million. And he had also been hired by the Parish of Calvary church at 277 Park Avenue South to sell its air rights.

“Having developed all three corners of the block, I was really familiar with it,” he said.

In the meantime, Rosen’s RFR Realty bought the Church Mission House at 281 Park Avenue South in 2014 for $50 million from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and tenants like the trendy Soho House members-only club in the Meatpacking District had shown interest.

But Newman never forgot about Fotografiska, and in spring 2012 the company was finally ready to spread its wings after a cash infusion. There was one big hurdle: while Fotografiska was flush with cash, it’s not the kind of credit tenant that makes landlords sleep easy at night.

Newman said the company put “a significant amount of cash” into the deal and plans to make meaningful upgrades to the building in order to make up for its lack of credit.

It helped, too, that their new landlord is an art buff.

“For a guy like Aby, art is at least as important if not more impart in his life than real estate is,” Newman said.