It Takes a City: Cooperation in Lower Manhattan Is Key

If ever there was an example of how cooperation was vital to a revitalization, it’s lower Manhattan.

And there’s no better illustration of that team approach than the creation of Brookfield Place at the World Financial Center. In order for that redevelopment to successfully move forward, we, as executive architect, worked alongside a world-renowned group of professionals, including other specialty architectural firms and engineers; New York City officials and local municipalities, including Battery Park City, the Port Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation; and, of course, the public that will ultimately visit the cultural, transportation and retail hub.

What stands there today will undoubtedly change the face of Downtown Manhattan for the better, particularly as elements of the project unfold. This fall, Brookfield Place’s lobby and entry pavilion will be opened to the public; by 2014, the retail and dining components, including the marketplace and dining terrace, will debut. It is humbling to be a part—even a small one—of such a large-scale neighborhood transformation.

And Brookfield Place is only one example of the amazing transformation under way. How is the rest of the neighborhood faring? Pretty well, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York, which stated that lower Manhattan “kicked off the year with a robust quarter of leasing” to the tune of 1.37 million square feet in the first three months of 2013, a 32 percent increase over just a decade ago. CBRE noted that six of this year’s top 10 deals occurred Downtown, and Crain’s New York Business reported that, over the past 10 years, the neighborhood was Manhattan’s fastest growing, changing from a business-dominated community to one that is mixed-use.

My take on all of these reports: Downtown has officially turned the corner … but not without a team effort. After years of working through politics and delays, construction progress can be seen everywhere you look. Lower Manhattan is hardly the neighborhood it was 12 years ago, thanks to urban planning. The area is much more than the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and Ground Zero; it’s a dynamic community—on the street level, above it in high-rise buildings and below it where transportation connects it—that is more like a small town within a big city.

The memorial is completed, buildings are being built and existing ones are being freshly renovated. The waterfront and Lower West Side are brought to life by pedestrians enjoying its bike paths and parks. Green areas are blooming, transit areas are in place and, most importantly, tenants are moving in. Condé Nast made its headline-grabbing move, committing to approximately 1.2 million square feet at 1 World Financial Center. The Financial District has become a draw for more than just, as the name implies, financial firms. Tech tenants, legal firms, and creative and social media companies are signing leases and prepared to call lower Manhattan home.

Young professionals are moving to the area in droves. There’s even a growing nightlife scene as streetscapes become more pedestrian-friendly. Bars, restaurants and retail shops are answering the increased needs of visitors and locals. Goodbye closed-off bank lobbies; hello bustling establishments!

While the end result is something worth celebrating, that’s not to say that getting there was without its challenges. A strong collaborative effort was put forth to bring the vision to life. Government entities, private corporations and plenty of community support and public input all rallied to create the “new Downtown” we see today. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not humbled, and in awe, of what we have collectively accomplished.

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