Westfield is ramping up its efforts to market and lease the roughly 365,000 square feet of retail space that is being constructed at the World Trade Center several sources say.
The company, one of the country’s largest owners and operators of retail and mall space, leased an office high in 7 World Trade Center overlooking the 16-acre WTC site and has installed a sophisticated marketing suite that it is using to woo big name tenants.
Meanwhile, a high powered team of some of Westfield’s top leasing and development executives are being flown in from around the world to staff the office and handle dealmaking for the project. David Ruddick, a top executive at Westfield who has overseen projects it has done in England and, more recently, Brazil, Ron Bondy a senior vice president in leasing and Brent Habeck, a Westfield leasing executive based in Los Angeles, are all now in the new downtown office for the company.
Westfield, the former operator of the WTC retail before the attacks of 9/11, is betting big on the site’s resurgence as a retail success. Last summer, the company agreed to pay $612.5 million for a 50 percent stake in the project in partnership with the Port Authority, which is developing the retail.
The WTC retail is spaced throughout the multi-million square foot complex, in the base of office buildings on the site, in subterranean transit and pedestrian corridors and in the site’s Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH hub.
With the above-ground portions of the Memorial finished, Four World Trade Center approaching completion next year, One World Trade Center not far behind that and other major components of the site such as the transit hub taking shape, tenant interest has begun to build in the complex. Before the attacks that destroyed it, the World Trade Center retail was widely considered the top selling mall in the country.
Up until recent months however, Westfield and the Port Authority have withheld releasing detailed plans of the site that would allow tenants to truly begin to gauge which spaces in the project they might be interested in leasing.
In May at ICSC, the retail industry’s largest annual conference in Las Vegas, Westfield appeared to take a major step forward with launching the site to the tenant and brokerage community. In a private marketing suite at Caesar’s Palace, the company showed detailed renderings and a large model of retail plan to a shortlist of important retailers and their leasing representatives.
At 7 World Trade Center, in a 5,300 square foot office on the building’s 37th floor that Westfield leased in recent weeks, the company has installed the same three dimensional model. A source who has toured the marketing center said the model is constructed in slices, which pull out like drawers from a cabinet, delineating each level of the project. The model along with floorplans and large renderings finally are bringing clarity to a development whose layout and design have remained hazy for most retailers.
“I anticipate them starting to lease this by the end of the year,” one top leasing broker told The Commercial Observer.
Westfield is aiming to start its leasing efforts by signing a handful of marquee tenants that will help define the image of the project and boost its cachet.
“They’re looking to do deals with Hermes and Gucci, that type of tenant,” the leasing dealmaker said. “If you get them you know that Prada and Louis Vuitton will also take a look at the space at the very least. From there they’ll go onto national chains like Victoria Secret and J.Crew. They want to make it a place that has something for everyone.”