The rebirth and revitalization of lower Manhattan in the decade after September 11, 2001, will be remembered as one of the greatest comebacks in U.S. history, predicts Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The transformation of lower Manhattan has been an enormous team effort—with the city, state, and federal governments working together, investing together, and forming partnerships with the private sector,” he adds.
Following the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, lower Manhattan has become one of the fastest-growing residential neighborhoods in New York City with a population that has more than doubled—to 56,000—over the last decade, reports the Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc. By the end of this year, Battery Park City will have added 7.2 million square feet (669,600 sq m) of residential space in the past ten years, according to the organization. Ten buildings with 2,546 units are scheduled to open by 2014 including New York by Gehry—New York City’s tallest residential tower.
“Much of this success had to do with the public investment and collaborative planning initiatives of the city and state,” Albanese says. “These initiatives included the development of highly desirable public spaces including waterfront esplanades, parks, and schools as well as major efforts to attract a diverse range of retail and commercial office businesses to the area after 9/11. The rebuilding effort over these past ten years has brought a wave of residential growth, generated more tourism in the area, and attracted a wide range of Class A firms like Goldman Sachs, which recently built its new headquarters in Battery Park City.”
Among the key residential projects in lower Manhattan is one of the rental properties AOI and its co-venture partner, Northwestern Mutual Life, completed in 2003—the Solaire, the first new high-rise construction project to be completed in downtown after 9/11, which helped set the standard for sustainable residential development. “Our second rental tower, the Verdesian, was completed in 2006 and became one of the first LEED Platinum–certified residential towers. Now there are eight green residential developments across lower Manhattan and the area has become known as a model for urban sustainability.” Albanese’s latest residential condo project, the Visionaire, which was completed with partner Starwood Capital, received a 2010 ULI Award for Excellence.
Lower Manhattan provides the benefits and conveniences of urban living as well as open space and public access to the waterfront, Albanese adds. Superior schools, high safety ratings, and many parks are factors that make the area’s multifamily activity so robust. “Other top reasons include the area’s walkability—a third of the residents walk to work—the area’s programmed waterfront, larger-than-average residential units, and conveniently located subways and other mass transit systems.”
The area near Ground Zero has a bright future—in part because great companies want to be in high-tech, green buildings right next to the best mass transit, and dynamic residential neighborhoods filled with creative talent, says Larry Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties, Inc., the Manhattan-based real estate development and investment firm that is currently rebuilding the office component of the World Trade Center site.
“My company and I held firm to our conviction that downtown had enormous potential both as a residential neighborhood and as a business district—that it could and would become a model 24/7 live/work mixed-use community,” he says. “This is all happening because New Yorkers refused to give up. New Yorkers believed that we could and would create a World Trade Center in the heart of a new downtown that is even better than before. Together, we are building a new downtown that is an ever-better place for future generations to visit, to work, and to live.”
Among the developments contributing to lower Manhattan’s resurgence over the past decade as a vibrant residential, commercial, and cultural neighborhood is New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street, a structure with stainless-steel cladding curving like draped fabric. More than 300 families already reside in this all-rental 903-unit, 76-story vertical “city” designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Says Bruce C. Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner, developer of the structure: “Lower Manhattan has shown its resilience, and we are so proud to be part of its residential growth and renewal. It’s been extremely fulfilling to collaborate with Frank Gehry to realize his stunning design.”
Edward J. Minskoff Equities Inc.’s 270 Greenwich Street structure, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has also contributed to the lower Manhattan residence renaissance, notes Mayor Bloomberg. “The city and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation helped make possible this new residential tower with 77 affordable apartments and 220 market-rate condos, as well as a new Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bank of America,” he says.
Amanda Burden, New York City’s planning commissioner, notes that Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for lower Manhattan and the strategy he laid out in 2002 is clearly working. “Zoning and financial incentives for residential development have led to the area becoming the most sought-after new place to live in the city,” Burden says. “Extraordinary change is palpable. From the Memorial at Ground Zero, to new Class A office space rising at the World Trade Center, to a spectacular new East River waterfront esplanade and a Gehry skyscraper, this sweeping transformation is one of the mayor’s most important and lasting legacies.”