New downtown is a testament to this great city’s resolve

By REBNY President John Banks

Fifteen years later, Lower Manhattan is a stronger and far more vibrant place today that it was before the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

The effort to reimagine Lower Manhattan and redevelop the World Trade Center area stand as a testament to the indomitability of New York’s spirit and our incomparable ability to endure and recover from the darkest day in our city’s history.

Following the events of 9/11, many people thought Lower Manhattan would never come back from the devastating attacks. In fact, the opposite has happened, the rebirth of Lower Manhattan has exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Though some were ready to write off Lower Manhattan as irreparably damaged, people from across America and around the world supported our local business community, government, and all New Yorkers in working together to resurrect the neighborhood.

As an essential part of the financial capital of the world, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center was an absolute necessity.

Much of the progress that has been made in Lower Manhattan would not have been possible without the leadership of Senator Charles Schumer and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, who were pivotal in gaining the assistance of the federal government to help pay for the clean-up and rebuilding effort.

Altogether, the federal government set aside $5 billion for the families of victims, and agreed to spend roughly $21 billion.

When Larry Silverstein made the decision to reconstruct 7 World Trade Center, it was a key turning point and a statement to the rest of New York City: the real estate industry was committed to making Lower Manhattan more advanced, improved, and safer than ever before.

Other leaders of our industry, like the late John Zuccotti, similarly made commitments to help bring about healing and a positive vision for Lower Manhattan.

The plans for Brookfield Place, now a thriving 24/7 destination for business, recreation, and culture, signaled to the world that the private sector was prepared to reinvest and rebuild.

Most recently, the Durst Organization worked closely with the Port Authority to address the construction and tenancy of One World Trade Center, the clearest message of New York’s tenacity to rebuild.

One of New York City’s first priorities after the tragedy 15 years ago was reopening Lower Manhattan to the public as quickly and safely as possible. The thousands of lives lost, hundreds of abandoned apartments units, and the relocation of many Lower Manhattan residents made this a daunting task.

Many businesses, along with then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, and then-Governor George Pataki, played pivotal roles in creating tax breaks for commercial tenants who committed to spending five years in the Lower Manhattan area, establishing incentive programs for both condo owners and rental tenants close to Ground Zero in exchange for their commitment to Lower Manhattan, and ensuring that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was developed.

These programs, along with an outstanding degree of cooperation from the private sector, businesses, developers, and every level of government, are all responsible for the rebirth of Lower Manhattan.

Fifteen years after our loss of roughly 11 million square feet of office space, Lower Manhattan has once again regained its place as the third largest office sector in the country.

According to the Downtown Alliance, 2015 saw the opening of three hotels, and 2016 openings will result in a 30 percent increase in hotel room inventory. Private sector employment has reached over 227,000.

The opening of One World Observatory has helped boost tourism to 14.2 million visitors in 2015, and the area’s retail market is also being transformed. In fact, according to REBNY’s latest Manhattan Retail Report, average asking rents for available ground floor space in Downtown Manhattan have been on the rise, at $234 in Spring 2015 and $326 in Spring 2016.

Additionally, Lower Manhattan now contains 30,000 units in 319 mixed-use and residential buildings, with many high-end projects moving forward throughout 2016 which will add another 1,500 units to Lower Manhattan by the end of this year.

Today, the World Trade Center site is a symbol of New York City’s ability to withstand adversity and come back stronger and better prepared for the future.

Not only does every new building in Lower Manhattan hold greater structural integrity than what was in its place before, but the neighborhood itself is an even more expansive and efficient hub than it was before as the area continues to attract tenants, investment and retail, and grow as a live, work, play community.

The commitment to rebuild Lower Manhattan is a reaffirmation of the neighborhood’s importance, and a daily reminder to us all of what it means to be a part of the greatest city in the world.

In other REBNY News:

For our 8th Annual Summer Donation Drive, we’re working with The Bowery Mission to serve homeless and hungry New Yorkers. Through September 9, REBNY’s members are encouraged to donate soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream and more new items to help restore dignity and respect to our city’s homeless community.

REBNY’s residential agents are looking at their deals to see what could be a contender for the 28th Annual Residential Deal of the Year Charity and Awards Gala to be held at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. The deadline for all submissions is Friday, September 16, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.

The application forms for the Deal of the Year Awards, Henry Forster Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Rookie Salesperson of the Year Award, along with ticket reservation information can be found at www.rebny.com. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at JTaylor@rebny.com or at 212-616-5261.

Due to popular demand, Sustainability Boot Camp – sponsored by CodeGreen Solutions, Con Edison Solutions, National Grid, NORESCO, and Zones – will continue this Fall with BOMA’s International Energy Efficiency Program: BEEP® Version 2.0! Taught by NORESCO, the eight-hour course will be offered at a discounted cost of $45 per person. Commercial building staff can register for courses online at www.rebny.com.

On Thursday, September 22 from 8:00-10:00am, our Commercial Brokerage Division will host a seminar, “The Surge – Core Midtown New Development and Major Renovation,” at the REBNY Mendik Education Center.

Moderated by Andrew D. Levin, Senior Vice President – Leasing at Boston Properties and Co-Chair of REBNY’s Commercial Brokerage Seminar Committee, the panel discussion will feature: Frank Doyle of Jones Lang LaSalle, David C. Berkey of L & L Holding Company, LLC, Andrew Sachs of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, and David Kaufman of SL Green Realty Corp. Tickets are $5 for REBNY members and $20 for non-members. Contact Ossie Shemtov at oshemtov@rebny.com for more information.