Columbia University Buys Former Site of Fairway Market on 125th Street

The former Fairway.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Columbia University just added the former site of Fairway Market on West 125th Street and 12th Avenue to its sizable real estate portfolio. “The sale drew fierce competition from various developers of industrial, film studio and life sciences properties,” Commercial Observer reported, but Columbia emerged the winner, acquiring “the 2.5-acre site for $84 million in an all-cash deal.”

The site was previously owned by the Glickberg family, founders of Fairway Market. The latest owners of the Fairway chain closed the 125th Street store in the summer of 2020 after filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11. Fairway was able to sell most of its stores — including the flagship store at 74th and Broadway — as it dealt with debt issues, but the store on 125th Street and 12th Avenue did not find a buyer, the Rag reported at the time. The store opened in 1995.

“[The property] spans three full city blocks between 12th Avenue and the Henry Hudson Parkway and comprises eight lots in total,” the Observer said. “The property currently includes a 68,000-square-foot parking lot; a 13,000-square-foot vacant warehouse; a 41,000-square-foot vacant building; and some prime, high-grossing billboard space that’s visible to highway drivers, as well as train riders on Amtrak’s Hudson line.”

There is no word yet what Columbia plans to do with the property, “which was the only space remaining between the university’s new Manhattanville campus and the Hudson River — [and] has the potential for 219,000 square feet of new development,” according to the Observer. “The high-profile location already sits within Columbia University‘s expansive zoning — the Special Manhattanville Mixed-Use Zoning District — which allows a myriad of potential uses.”

Clarification: The Glickberg family sold the Fairway chain several years ago. The original version of this story did not make that clear.

FOOD, NEWS | 32 comments | permalink
    1. Leon says:

      I am all for economic development activity and would rather that Columbia do something with the land than it remain vacant. And I am very glad that Dinosaur BBQ seems to be surviving all of this.

      That being said, can someone remind me why Columbia is tax-exempt? They should at least be paying some PILOTs for police, fire, street cleaning, etc. I appreciate that they create jobs but so do plenty of other businesses that pay taxes.

      • Carlos says:

        “Not-for-profit” hospitals also fit in the same bucket, though I think that theoretically to maintain their tax-exempt status they are required to provide a minimum amount of charity care.

        Some cities where Eds and Meds make up a substantial percentage of land and jobs have worked with the tax-exempts to negotiate a payment to the city (PILOT) that is nowhere near the amount a taxable entity would pay but is better than nothing. NYC would be wise to do the same.

      • James says:

        Charging them Corporate taxes won’t yield much. I read recently that corporations contribute 3.9% of revenue collected at the federal level (down from 5.8% since Trump’s 2018 tax cut). Individuals pay 41%, I think it said.

      • Leslie says:

        Because all college exists on federal money in particular Pell grants enabling them to accept students who otherwise could not attend because of the high cost of college today. Every colleges including Harvard.

    2. John Moody says:

      Columbia university is one of the largest real estate holding company in New York city.
      It does not pay tax. Period.
      It makes tons of money, year in and year out from tuition and other financial venues they are in.
      As well they have billions of dollars at their use, money they own, tax free.
      It is high time that outfits like Columbia U, NYU and other universities in the city pay tax, or at least, part of what they would have to pay if they were not exempt.
      Enough for this free ride.

      • good humor says:

        it also gets a lot of money from the Federal Govt.

      • Josh P. says:

        Some of the biggest landowners in the city are universities and churches – and they’re both exempt from paying property taxes. You mentioned NYU and Columbia but the Catholic Church and Trinity Church are on every list of biggest landowners in the city too. I’m all for supporting non-profits, but some of these institutions are starting to look like commercial real estate developers first and charities second.

      • KRL says:

        Agree 100000000%

    3. Columbia Student Worker says:

      Would you look at that? I guess there was some money after all.

    4. long overdue. That’s been an eyesore for way too long. Hope that ColU. redevelops with not only academic use, but surely ground floor amenities for neighborhood. Those ugly graffiti on brick walls seen from West Side Hgwy will not be missed at all. Could be great murals/art work? Even narrow green spaces attached to bldgs? Keep us informed!

    5. ObviousColumbiaGrad says:

      Roar, Lion, Roar

    6. Michael says:

      It would nice to have the ferry dock put to use and the old train station converted back as a stop for metro north it seems that 701 W135th construction has failed for years now at that location.

      I do miss fairway it was very convenient to park and shop.

    7. B.B. says:

      Of course Columbia swooped in with an all cash bid for nearly $90 million. They don’t have to pay real estate taxes just like that other university system gobbling up Manhattan, NYU.

      In the end over decades Columbia will get back good portion of what they paid via property tax exemptions.

      It’s time for some nonprofits, including higher education to pay something in property taxes.

      • Joe says:

        A lot of misinformation. Columbia pays taxes on all non academic buildings such as apartments, office buildings, and retail. Columbia also gives hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to low income, underserved, minority, and area residents each year. The hospitals also give hundreds of millions of dollars in free and charity care as well as screenings. Also, Columbia provides endless free educational programming, courses, tuition aid, as well as all of its programming, museums, and theaters are all free to the public. It is also me of the largest employers in New York, the number one patent generator in New York City, and a huge economic and research engine for the neighborhood and the City. New York City is a top education, finance, research, healthcare, computer, data, entrepreneurship center because of instructions like Columbia. Columbia contributes way more per year to the city than a few million in taxes ever would.

        • aphasian says:

          Joe, can you please get CU to hire you to do its messaging =)

        • B.B. says:

          Spare us the PR campaign for Columbia university.

          As of 2019 Columbia paid barely $7 million in property taxes. Massachusetts and other areas have extracted far more from Harvard and other Ivy League colleges in PILOT payments.

          Regarding balance of your arguments, Google, Facebook and other tech in NYC all could say same (patents, jobs, contribution to NYS/NYC economy), yet they all pay RE taxes. Still Google has managed to expand their campus taking up large (and growing) swaths of Chelsea.

          • Will says:

            Lols. Columbia so far has given 179 million dollars to the community to build its new Manhattanville campus with many more millions coming. Harvard was pressured to give 7 million to Alliston to build its new campus. Harvards endowment is five times Columbia’s.

          • Joe says:

            Google and Facebook received ten of millions of dollars in tax incentives from the city and the state to locate here. They do nothing for the public. No hundreds of millions in tuition assistance, no free programs or lectures, no free access to their facilities and buildings, no free programs, no tens of millions of dollars in free health care and services. Three Columbia’s would be far more valuable to the city than a hundred googles.

    8. April says:

      I used to shop there. The store was huge, had good sales. Now (I think) I know why they don’t sell the fairway seltzer water.

    9. Jeff says:

      Agreed; Columbia is an effect becoming a large hedge fund and real estate holding company. It does plenty of good but there is no reason it should be tax exempt.

    10. An Alum says:

      Could have used some of that cash for some security guards in Morningside Park and two students would be alive today.

      • Boris says:

        Columbia is not responsible for providing security in a NYC park.

        • josilv says:

          You are correct but as a wonderful community service a few more “good guys” looking out for everyone, not only CU people, couldn’t hurt.

    11. Tonguç Yaman says:

      It is time for CU to open a continuous green market and subsidize farmers to bring their food to stalls for university students and all locals to have access to most naturally sourced foods.
      Mark Bittman is teaching a course at HPM MSPH in which he guides master’s students to implement projects of this kind.

    12. Jessica Alper says:

      Oh good…more empty atriums. Who needs groceries, hardware, pet supplies, laundry, or a haircut? More empty atriums…cant wait!

    13. Janice says:

      Here’s an idea: Why not have Columbia turn it back into Fairway, but with reasonable prices? God knows we don’t need another luxury highrise.

    14. susan stein says:


    15. Sheila Rao says:

      Will they pay property taxes??

    16. B.B. says:

      Not for profit entities such as NYU, Columbia, etc.. get far bigger bang for their real estate bucks due to tax exemptions.

    17. P says:

      Of course Columbia bought the property. Wonder why it took so long to happen.

      Is Columbia exempt from the RE transfer tax on the $84M transaction?