When Santiago Calatrava‘s much-delayed World Trade Center transportation hub (maybe) opens in mid-2015, its mammoth concourse floor will be leased out for private events and to retail tenants staging promotional blitzes. And while retail rents between $450 and $550 a foot rival those of respectable Midtown corridors, some industry insiders think that opening up Calatrava’s Oculus concourse to parties and glorified live commercials is an ominous sign for traditional retail in the $3.74 billion project.
Westfield Group, the hub’s manager and leasing agent, did not share details of the plans for an event space when the New York Post reported on them last week. But a Port Authority rep who initially chalked the catering hall vision up to Cushman & Wakefield all-star Tara Stacom, eventually told the Post the agency was behind the idea of fashion shows and even weddings taking place two floors below the hub’s Calatrava-designed wings.
As for retail tenants on the concourse, RKF chief Robert Futterman said that Westfield is talking to the likes of Gucci and Prada. But while no one doubts Westfield’s retail bona fides–the Australian firm manages a $64 billion global portfolio spread over 100 upscale malls–the WTC hub comes with certain challenges to shops, namely its immense scope.
Westfield will eventually manage 460,000 square feet of retail at the WTC site, and some think that the Oculus, the transportation hub’s retail nexus, is simply too large–nearly 51,000 square feet–with too few daily commuters–200,000 by the Port Authority’s generous estimates, 50,000 by critics–to generate bustling foot traffic along the lines of Grand Central, which 750,000 people pass through each day.
With the hub’s hoped-for opening two years away, it’s too early to tell if Westfield’s luxury tenants will generate strong sales, especially given the competition from the upcoming Brookfield Place and Fulton Center. Still, one top real estate dog is already describing the Oculus as a “boondoggle.”