The RisingJun 18, 2008
Soirées rarely come any more sizzling than the one thrown by Sports Illustrated February 12 in New York to celebrate the launch of the magazine’s 2008 Swimsuit Edition. Heavy snow was falling outdoors, but inside was considerably warmer as numerous models — including SI cover girl Marisa Miller — paraded before the crowd.
All the more breathtaking was the venue: the top floor of 7 World Trade Center. “People should be aware of the magnitude of this building,” said swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, who lives in Manhattan, “and if that means coming up here in skimpy clothes, I am more than ready to promote it.”
Last to fall on September 11, 2001, some seven hours after the Twin Towers collapsed, 7 WTC was the first to be rebuilt. For now, the 52-story structure stands as a beacon of just how far Lower Manhattan has come.
For developer Larry Silverstein, the office building, begun in 2002, completed in 2006 and currently three-quarters leased, is the prism through which downtown’s redevelopment should be viewed. “Six of our nine major tenants moved here from Midtown,” he says. “And our tenant mix spans the business world, from design and publishing to financial and scientific. This is the beginning of the total transformation of downtown — not just rebuilding the towers we lost, but creating a diverse business community in the heart of a dynamic, 24/7 neighborhood.”
It’s the action on 7 WTC’s tenth floor that really gets the blood pumping. First, there are the scale models and video projections of the new WTC site, including Towers 2, 3 and 4, all of which Silverstein is developing. He has arranged a custom-built collaborative design lab for the architects, engineers and other professionals of the three firms working on his portion of the WTC reconstruction. From 7 WTC’s south-facing windows, they can observe the beehive of construction in what was formerly known as Ground Zero, but is now called (as it was back in the late 1960s during the start of the original WTC project) the “Bathtub.”
For anyone who assumes the Freedom Tower is still bogged down in bureaucracy and going nowhere, here’s a news flash: It’s already taking shape. Foundation steel and a three-foot-thick concrete core rise toward street level.
Of special note to the trading community: Towers 2 and 3 will each have purpose-built 55,000-square-foot trading floors. Meanwhile, Westfield Properties, builders of some of the largest, most ambitious shopping centers in the world, is set to bring in nearly half a million square feet of retail across multiple levels of the site. Plans for a multilevel transit terminal and a performing-arts center are also in full swing.
Says David M. Childs, the architect of the Freedom Tower, of his creation: “Traders will have a restored vertical element to mark the center of their world.”
There are, it’s worth noting, no tenants lined up for the Freedom Tower yet. Which raises a sensitive question: Who would be willing to occupy offices with such a security stigma?
There is early speculation that for both symbolic and pragmatic reasons, the Freedom Tower will be largely a “government” building. This is borne out by early leasing activity: The Alliance for Downtown NY reports that New York State has agreed to lease 415,000 square feet, while U.S. Customs & Border Protection has executed a Memorandum of Agreement for 600,000 square feet. Key players at primary leasing agent Cushman & Wakefield declined interview requests. However, the Alliance also reports that “Cushman & Wakefield expects to have the building substantially leased by the time it is completed and ready for occupany in 2012.”
Note to developers — set aside ample space for those in possession of the nerve required for occupancy: traders.