After years of setbacks, construction at the World Trade Center site is advancing--but the best is yet to come, explained Larry Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties, at the Real Estate Lenders Association's (RELA) final breakfast of their membership year at Seven World Trade Center this morning.
"I don't think most people are going to have a clue about what's to come, and when it does, you are going to see a transformation here overnight," Silverstein said. "The impact and transformation will be similar to what Rockefeller Center did in 1930 for Manhattan's West Side."
As the neighborhood comes back, the $20 billion redevelopment of the 16-acre site has also spurred development around it, including the MTA's new Fulton Street Transit Center, the $4 billion revamped PATH terminal, the 190-key Four Seasons Downtown Hotel and new multifamily structures sprouting up in nearby TriBeCa and Battery Park City. "The residential growth of this location is nothing short of phenomenal," Silverstein said, describing Lower Manhattan as an emerging 24/7, live/work community, with more than 60,000 families in the area. "It is the total opposite of what everybody anticipated after 9/11. People have decided to move in, and one of the reasons it is as attractive as it is, is because you have a total coming together of 13 mass transit lines."
But Silverstein also recalled the state of the neighborhood following the 9/11 attack, which sent a shockwave throughout the city and the nation as a whole. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey first made the World Trade Center site and utilities available again in April 2002, but Silverstein explained he was anxious to start rebuilding immediately. "We needed desperately to show some activity down here," Silverstein said. The first designs were drafted in late 2001. "We had to start some kind of rebuilding process. We had to take people who were totally demoralized back into a positive state."
And though initially criticized by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for charging $50 per square foot rents at the 52-story Seven World Trade Center, Silverstein said he wouldn't have it any other way. "I said, Mr. Mayor, this is my money, not public money," he said. "I am doing what I think is right, I am doing that today, and I will believe I will produce a successful result."
Subsequently, Seven World Trade got its first anchor tenant when Moody's Corp. signed a lease for the 11th to 28th floors in the building, which opened in May 2006. As a result, other tenants followed, including Ameriprise Financial, the New York Academy of Science and Mansueto Ventures LLC. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it became the first LEED certified building in New York City.
And momentum is continuing to build. GlobeSt.com asked Silverstein if the signing of Conde Nast's one-million-square-foot lease at One World Trade Center could positively affect leasing at Three World Trade and Four World Trade. He responded that he anticipates lots of interest, though he did not disclose any potential tenants for Towers 3 or 4. Though unconfirmed, UBS AG is considering a move here, sources said.
"I think a corporation of that quality taking a million square feet opened everybody's eyes and they said, ‘Oh my god, what is going on?'" he said. "That had incredible significance. In terms of leasing activity, it has been nothing short of phenomenal."