How the World Trade Center Staged a Comeback After the Most Devastating Attack in History
Terence Cullen Sept. 9, 2015, 10:48 a.m.
Fifteen years ago this week, two airplanes struck the Twin Towers, which killed more than 2,600 people. (The number gets closer to 3,000 if you factor in two simultaneous attacks in Pennsylvania and Arlington, Va.) The assaults set off a series of world events that led to war, seismic political change and hundreds of other things (small and large) that have been incorporated into our modern life.
But the aftermath is as much a real estate story as it is one of security, elections or culture. The loss of the two towers, and thousands of innocent lives changed how buildings are constructed in New York City and how landlords have to protect workers. The hulking 1 World Trade Center, completed in 2014, was sent back to the drawing board at one point to ensure the base of the building could resist any future copycat strike.
Elected officials, victims’ families, civic groups and developers squabbled for about a decade about what to do with the 16-acre site and who would rule the land. Developer Larry Silverstein spent years in court wrangling insurance money in the wake of the attacks, which would help finance the reconstruction.
Despite the very public back-and-forth, reconstruction of the World Trade Center site is nearing its zenith; in total, three out of four planned towers at the site are either finished or en route to completion (not to mention 7 World Trade Center, which is across the street and was finished a decade ago). The long-delayed World Trade Center PATH station opened earlier this year, as did the shopping concourse below the streets. All that’s left on the drawing board is a performing arts center and 2 World Trade Center, for which the developer is still in search of an anchor tenant.
To commemorate the event that changed New York City and the country forever, we took a look at some of the key years and milestones since that fateful day.
After months of negotiations, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and 21st Century Fox in January backed out of a deal with Silverstein Properties to occupy the yet-to-be-built, Bjarke Ingels-designed 2 WTC. The fate of the building was left in limbo because it did not (and still does not) have an anchor tenant to secure financing.
After 11 years of construction and a $3.9 million price tag, the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center PATH station opened in March to mixed reactions over the design and cost overruns on construction.
In June, Silverstein topped out 3 WTC. The building is slated to finish in 2018 and will be anchored at the base by advertising company Group M.
“The story of 3 [WTC] to a great extent is that we planned for a financial services tenant in the base,” said Lieber, the Silverstein executive. “And who came and leased that space? Group M—a branding and marketing company. That is hugely symbolic to the change Downtown.”
Later that month, the Port Authority finished the single-acre Liberty Park, a green space atop the complex’s vehicle security center.
The Port Authority commissioners also voted to move Fritz Koenig’s “The Sphere,” a bronze sculpture that survived the 9/11 attacks, to the park—marking the first time the artwork would return to the World Trade Center in nearly 15 years.
Westfield World Trade Center, the 365,000-square-foot shopping concourse that’s part of the transit hub and beneath the buildings, opened in August following its own set of delays, and features a massive Italian market curated by Mario Batali called Eataly (the second in New York).
“This year, the site’s master plan was realized, Westfield opened, the connections between the buildings and transit center have been made and  World Trade Center has leased more than 2.1 million square feet,” Durst said in the statement.