The Broker Who Would Fill One World Trade
Jotham Sederstrom Sept. 7, 2010, 10:28 a.m.
It was only two weeks until the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and, needless to say, the woman now charged with leasing office space at One World Trade Center was dealing with a congested appointment book.
Media requests for walking tours at the building, now standing 36 stories, had reached capacity. Arrangements with the Durst Organization, an equity partner alongside the Port Authority, were finally coming to a close. And potential tenants were arriving daily to a site that, just four years ago, was little more than a patch of sacred soil.
But for Tara Stacom, a vice chairman at Cushman & Wakefield who juggles a portfolio of 11 million square feet, the frenetic pace of activity at what is arguably the most highly anticipated office and retail development in the world is nothing short of joyous.
“It’s my baby,” said Ms. Stacom, 52, a second-generation real estate agent who joined Cushman as a broker in 1981. “It’s a lot of people’s baby, but it rises and changes on a weekly basis.”
Originally branded the “Freedom Tower,” the building now known as One World Trade Center is scheduled for completion in 2013. When finished, the 104-story skyscraper will boast 2.9 million square feet of office and retail space, while also distinguishing itself as the tallest in North America.
Already, the publisher Condé Nast has signed a letter of intent to relocate its headquarters and nearly 20 magazine titles into about 1 million square feet of office space in the building. That announcement, made last month, follows similar agreements by the General Services Administration, the New York State Office of General Services and the Vantone Industrial Co., a Beijing-based group that intends to create a 191,000-square-foot cultural and business hub for Chinese companies.
“We are seeing an unusual array of tenant mix for downtown Manhattan, which is typically financial services,” said Ms. Stacom, who says that the interest in the tower among potential tenants far outstrips the available square footage.
“We’re seeing interest from the media world and also the publishing world, naturally,” she added, “but it’s also the insurance firms and the big banking institutions, which have been the traditional sectors down in the area.”
Ms. Stacom and her team at Cushman became involved with the One World Trade Center account in 2007, after an earlier leasing assignment at 20 Times Square above the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey’s bus terminal. As she describes it, however, the new relationship did not come without a struggle, as competition was fierce.
“Everyone in the industry responded,” recalled Ms. Stacom during an hour-long interview in her Sixth Avenue office in midtown last week. “It was really quite significant. It was more than a handful–it was between one and two handfuls.”
Where a typical agency pitch before a developer may stretch to more than an hour in length, the huge response to the One World Trade Center RFP forced officials to shorten meetings to around 35 minutes, said Ms. Stacom. Nonetheless, Cushman distinguished itself with its marketing approach, the composition of its leasing team and its view of the building as a global draw.
“Our approach was definitely global,” said Ms. Stacom. “We felt this would be the most important building in the United States in the most important city in the United States, and it needed to be a global icon in the world. Others came at it as more of a New York icon and more symbolic for New York. Our approach definitely differentiated us.”
MS. STACOM WAS raised in Greenwich, Conn., by ambitious parents. Her father, Matthew Stacom, was already earning a reputation as a successful broker with a strong work ethic that reverberated throughout the family.
Determined to raise two financially independent daughters, Ms. Stacom’s mother, meanwhile, insisted that both she and her sister, Darcy, earn their first real estate licenses as 16-year-old high-school students. Although a clerk initially refused to allow the teenagers to take the exam, their mother pointed to a statute saying otherwise. The statute was changed shortly after.
Nonetheless, Tara Stacom ran the other way, trying her hand on Wall Street before jumping headfirst into real estate–first as a sales agent at Time Inc., and, only one year later, as a broker for Cushman & Wakefield.
“When your parents say, ‘This is what you should like,’ you go the opposite way, and I definitely went the other way,” said Ms. Stacom, recalling her parents’ early push. “Darcy did not. She went directly into real estate.
In the years since joining the real estate industry, Ms. Stacom and her sister have both been named as the top brokers, worldwide, for their respective firms: Ms. Stacom in 2004 for Cushman & Wakefield, and Darcy Stacom in 2005 for CB Richard Ellis. Their father, who had served as a vice chairman at Cushman, also received the same honor during his 65 years at the firm, Ms. Stacom said.
Although the family patriarch is 92 years old and semi-retired, he is still a fountain of wisdom, said Ms. Stacom. Indeed, in the early days of One World Trade Center’s conception, when it was still referred to as the Freedom Tower, Ms. Stacom called her father for advice–a wise idea, it turned out.
“As you well know, the building was known as Freedom Tower, and the one thing I felt initially was that the name had to go,” said Ms. Stacom, whose father acted as the leasing agent for the Sears Tower in Chicago, renowned as the country’s tallest.
“As Chris Ward, head of the Port Authority said, ‘This is not about freedom,'” Ms. Stacom continued. “‘A building doesn’t establish one’s freedom. It’s the wrong association.’ And, in trying to pick a name, we interviewed a lot of ad agencies. But I called Dad: ‘What do you think the name should be?’ And within minutes, he said, ‘It’s easy: It should be One World.’ And all the ad agencies, who spent hours and hours on this, eventually said it should be One World. But my father got it on the spot. So, yeah, I’ve asked for advice.”