Down­town NYC up from 9/11 ashes

New ho­tels, firms draw res­i­dents and re­de­fine Lower Man­hat­tan 15 years af­ter ter­ror at­tacks

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Beth J. Harpaz

NEW YORK — Fif­teen years af­ter the Sept. 11th at­tacks, Lower Man­hat­tan has been re­born.

The re­vi­tal­iza­tion of New York City’s down­town, pow­ered by $30 bil­lion in gov­ern­ment and pri­vate in­vest­ment, in­cludes not just the re­con­struc­tion of the World Trade Cen­ter site but also two new malls filled with up­scale re­tail­ers, thou­sands of new ho­tel rooms and dozens of eater­ies. The sta­tis­tics alone are stun­ning.

There are 29 ho­tels in the neigh­bor­hood, com­pared to six be­fore 9/11. More than 60,000 peo­ple live down­town, nearly triple the num­ber in 2000. And last year, the area hosted a record 14 mil­lion vis­i­tors, ac­cord­ing to the Al­liance for Down­town New York.

And while there’s plenty to do down­town for free, in­clud­ing see­ing the 9/11 me­mo­rial park, vis­i­tors have also shown a will­ing­ness to pay rel­a­tively steep prices for cer­tain at­trac­tions.

The 9/11 mu­seum, which charges $24, has drawn 6.67 mil­lion vis­i­tors since its May 2014 open­ing. The ob­ser­va­tory atop One World Trade Cen­ter, which charges $34, has drawn 3 mil­lion peo­ple in the 15 months since it opened.

In com­par­i­son, the Statue of Lib­erty gets about 4 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year.

“I don’t think any­one would have ex­pected that we would have re­bounded so ro­bustly, so quickly,” said Jes­sica Lap­pin, pres­i­dent of the Al­liance for Down­town New York. “There’s the phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion at the site it­self, but there’s also the neigh­bor­hood. There’s an en­ergy here. Peo­ple could have given up af­ter 9/11 and New York City’s vis­i­tors are be­ing at­tracted to var­i­ous sites in Lower Man­hat­tan, in­clud­ing the ob­ser­va­tory atop One World Trade Cen­ter. no­body would have blamed them. In­stead, there has been a tenac­ity, a ded­i­ca­tion that is in­spir­ing.”

The Al­liance for Downt own New York was founded be­fore 9/11, in 1995, when the “neigh­bor­hood was on its heels,” Lap­pin re­called. “The va­cancy rate was go­ing through the roof.”

At the time, down­town was a strictly 9-to-5 area, keyed to the work­day rhythms of Wall Street and City Hall. Re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts were just get­ting un­der­way “when 9/11 hit and changed every­thing.”

But as gov­ern­ment fund­ing for dis­as­ter re­cov­ery be­gan to pour in, pri­vate in­vest­ment fol­lowed, spur- ring a mas­sive re­build­ing that con­tin­ues to this day.

For blocks sur­round­ing One World Trade, half­built tow­ers and cranes still clut­ter the sky, bar­ri­cades and scaf­fold­ing line the streets and the whine and clat­ter of jack­ham­mers fill the air. Con­struc­tion work­ers in hard hats are as ubiq­ui­tous as tourists.

The re­ces­sion ham­pered ef­forts to bring busi­nesses back, but Lap­pin said pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ment — 266,000 work­ers — is fi­nally near­ing pre-9/ 11 num­bers.

Conde Nast and Time Inc. have re­lo­cated down­town. GroupM, one of the world’s big­gest ad­ver­tis­ing firms, will move into 3 World Trade Cen­ter when it’s com­plete.

So far, three tow­ers have been built with plans for more.

The neigh­bor­hood is also be­com­ing a shop­ping des­ti­na­tion. Brook­field Place opened last year with lux­ury re­tail­ers like Gucci and Diane von Fursten­berg. It also houses Le Dis­trict, a French food hall, as well as Hud­son Eats, with out­posts of pop­u­lar lo­cal eater­ies like Mighty Quinn’s BBQ and Num Pang’s Cam­bo­dian sand­wiches.

A sec­ond shop­ping cen­ter, West­field, opened in Au­gust in­side the Ocu­lus, a strik­ing white struc­ture de­signed by famed ar­chi­tect San­ti­ago Cala­trava. The curves of the Ocu­lus’ two ribbed wings are sil­hou­et­ted by One World Trade ris­ing be­hind it. In­side the Ocu­lus, re­tail­ers range from Ap­ple to Kate Spade to The Art of Shav­ing. The com­plex links to 4 World Trade, where the new Eataly NYC Down­town of­fers a bounty of bread, cheese, cof­fee, pro­duce, pasta and more.

Be­low ground a mas­sive tran­sit cen­ter houses sub­ways and a New Jersey PATH train sta­tion.

Else­where in Lower Man­hat­tan, a Tom Colic­chio restau­rant is planned for the just-opened Beek­man ho­tel; the soon-toopen Four Sea­sons ho­tel will host a Wolf­gang Puck restau­rant; and the sto­ried Nobu restau­rant will move down­town from Tribeca.

Other down­town at­trac­tions in­clude Alexan­der Hamil­ton’s tomb in the grave­yard of Trin­ity Church, the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian and the SeaGlass Carousel, which opened last year near where boats leave for the Statue of Lib­erty and El­lis Is­land.

But near the top of many vis­i­tors’ New York itin­er­ar­ies these days is a pil­grim­age to the place where planes turned the twin tow­ers into smok­ing piles of twisted steel and rub­ble.

The tran­quil park for- mally known as the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Me­mo­rial fea­tures tree- lined walk­ways and re­flect­ing pools in the foot­prints of the twin tow­ers. Bronze para­pets around the pools bear the names of the nearly 3,000 killed in the at­tacks.

Re­cent park vis­i­tors in­cluded three sib­lings from Barcelona, Spain — Aran­txa, Meus and Pau Saloni.

“It’s re­ally sad to see all the names, but it’s nice to re­mem­ber them,” Meus said.

Also vis­it­ing were SuTing Fu and his fam­ily, in town from sub­ur­ban Westch­ester. “We lived in New York City when 9/11 hap­pened,” he said. “But we hadn’t come to see this un­til to­day. It’s nice to see every­thing they’ve done to memo­ri­al­ize it.”

Lap­pin said the neigh­bor­hood’s re­birth is a fit­ting tribute to the 9/11 tragedy: “We honor those who were lost, but we also cel­e­brate life and move for­ward.”

“Peo­ple could have given up af­ter 9/11. ... In­stead, there has been a tenac­ity.”

BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP 2015

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