downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 25 | November 3 - 9, 2006

progress report/ port authority & w.t.c. developer

Towers, workers and residents will get great stores

By Larry A. Silverstein

It is no secret how passionate I have been about rebuilding the World Trade Center into a world-class business center. Through all the debate, I have held to the position that these buildings will be the centerpiece of a new Downtown commercial district in a city that is quickly running out of the office space we need to compete for jobs in the 21st century. In September, we unveiled designs for three spectacular new towers that Silverstein Properties will build along Greenwich St., and our recent deal with the state, the city and the Port Authority guarantees that this first-class office space will be rebuilt on the site within the next five years.

However, it is not enough to offer prime office space to keep New York's leading companies here in the city, and prevent them from moving out of town. We need to give them a great neighborhood - one filled with parks and public space, housing, and access to a full range of mass transit, movie theaters, hotels, cultural facilities and shopping. Downtown already offers much of this - it's one of the best places in the city to live, to work, to go to school and to visit. But not to shop. Not yet.

Though many people had differing opinions on the design of the former World Trade Center complex, most everyone agreed that the underground shopping mall was vital to Downtown's residential and business communities. Every day, tens of thousands of commuters stopped there on their way in and out of work. Visitors from all over the world were drawn there as a tourist destination for shopping. Local residents bought their books, donuts and clothes at the World Trade Center.

I have always recognized the fundamental necessity and value of quality retail to sustain a growing neighborhood and to provide for a new one. For retail to succeed, it needs a constant flow of people. Our new towers on the site will be filled with tens of thousands of people working in offices. Conversely, our buildings' tenants will need somewhere close by to eat, drink and shop. The commercial office development at the World Trade Center site is intrinsically linked to the retail component - one cannot work without the other. This mutually beneficial relationship will also provide a much-needed neighborhood amenity, tourist draw and economic boon for Downtown.

Studies by the Downtown Alliance and others have demonstrated the overwhelming unmet demand for retail services Downtown, a demand that registers into billions of dollars. Additionally, I have heard the voices of Downtown residents at community board meetings, public hearings and through private surveys voicing their overwhelming embrace of the retail plan at the W.T.C. site and expressing a demand for these amenities and services that cannot be met soon enough.

The design we have developed with the Port Authority calls for not only rebuilding the retail space that was lost on 9/11, but going above and beyond what was there before. We want to create a real destination for visitors and shoppers, a center that will share many of the attributes of the city's great retail hubs - Fifth and Madison Aves., Rockefeller Center and Times Square. While it is still too early to discuss specific stores for this planned center, it will be a mixed-use destination that could include anchor department stores, upscale boutiques, quality national chains, and individual local retailers along with a wealth of bars, restaurants, public spaces and other neighborhood amenities.

While some people have expressed a concern that this enormous retail center might overwhelm the neighborhood and its existing businesses and market, I have heard from many local Downtown vendors and business owners who, far from fearing the arrival of the new retail complex, welcome and support its construction. They rightly envision and conclude - as I do - that a critical mass of retail at the new W.T.C. will be a boon to the entire district with a rising tide of economic activity and foot traffic downtown.

For over five years, you - the Lower Manhattan community of residents, workers, businesses and visitors - have remained committed to rebuilding and have patiently endured all the public struggles and all the debate over the future of this wonderful neighborhood. You deserve the type of soaring and exciting place that satisfies all your needs and rewards your commitment to the neighborhood with a new and even better Downtown.

This is the vision that Silverstein Properties has committed to realizing in our rebuilding plan. The office and retail redevelopment of the mixed-use complex is the final element - when combined with the residential, transportation, memorial and cultural components - that will make Lower Manhattan the neighborhood we have all been working towards these past years. I believe we are only a few short years away from realizing this vibrant future, and I'm determined to see it through.

Larry A. Silverstein is president and C.E.O. of Silverstein Properties, Inc., the World Trade Center site's developer.

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