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BY JOSH ROGERS | Developer Larry Silverstein is no longer stumped at 3 World Trade Center as he just reached an agreement in principle to lease 515,000 square feet of the building to GroupM advertising and media services firm.
He would have had to cease construction at the end of the year — leaving an 8-story retail “stump”— had he not been able to sign an anchor tenant, as per the 2010 agreement with the Port Authority, owners of the W.T.C.
The GroupM agreement on the major terms of the lease was first reported by the New York Post last week and was confirmed in a statement by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and another source familiar with the deal.
Silver, who helped broker the 2010 agreement, hailed the probable lease as “another unmistakable sign of our great success in rebuilding this community” after 9/11.
Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1, said 3 W.T.C. is a crucial piece to the site’s interconnected puzzle and the deal means “the area of the construction will be shrinking.”
The building will connect to the Calatrava train station and 4 W.T.C. retail, which is almost finished, and it’s over the R, 1, and PATH trains and near the 9/11 Memorial and museum, Hughes added.
“Then you’re down to one little corner for Tower 2,” she said.
Liz Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance business improvement district, called it “a great and timely deal.”
She pointed to several aspects of the agreement beyond what it means for continued W.T.C. construction, including that GroupM represents a “growing diversity” of firms in Lower Manhattan, and that it will be bringing jobs from Midtown.
“You see that Lower Manhattan is a growing technology, media and creative hub,” Berger said, adding that Conde Nast will be around the corner at 1 W.T.C.
The source who confirmed the agreement in principle said the final lease has not yet been signed but it is very likely to be completed. He said 3 W.T.C. was once thought to be best for a financial firm because of its large column-free floors suitable for trading, but that layout is now also attractive to new media and technology firms looking to set up “old newsrooms,” or bullpens. Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s well-publicized City Hall bullpen office likely has helped popularize this open-floor layout, he added.
As it happened, Bloomberg worked closely with Silver three years ago to ensure W.T.C. construction continued. At the time, both were trying to get the Port to provide something close to a full financial backstop to guarantee 3 W.T.C., but the authority resisted saying it was an unwise risk to public money.
Silverstein at the time was offering the Port a 30 percent interest in 3 W.TC. in exchange for a full guarantee, but agreed to give the Port roughly a 5 percent interest in exchange for a partial backstop.
Silverstein Properties International expects to finish building 3 W.T.C. in 2016.