Finally, Tenants at One World Trade Center

Louis Medina, a security guard at One World Trade Center, couldn’t control his emotions as he thought about Monday, the first day at work for the skyscraper’s first group of office workers, 175 employees of publishing giant Condé Nast. “Even 10 years from now, my son will ask me or my daughter will ask me, and I will be like, ‘I was there when the building opened [and] my job was to protect the building,’ ” said Mr. Medina, before succumbing to tears. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to be a part of history even if it is a small part.” Mr. Medina’s passion represents just one of the layers of meaning surrounding the reintroduction of daily office life on the site where more than 2,700 people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For many, Monday’s milestone is largely economic, evidence of the continuing reinvigoration of lower Manhattan. And for Condé Nast, the move from Times Square to One World Trade Center symbolizes a corporate pivot toward the digital future for the company that produces the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair. And then, of course, there are the more mundane concerns.

Photos: At Look Back One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center Is Preparing to Open Its Doors to First Tenants

A view to the Statue of Liberty from the 63rd floor of One World Trade Center. CHICAGO TRIBUNE/MCT/ABACA PRESS

While the financial-services industry had dominated downtown for decades, Condé Nast’s commitment to One World Trade helped to draw an influx of different kinds of companies, said Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, an association of local businesses and property owners. The company and its famous editorial figures are considered “taste makers and place makers,” Ms. Lappin said. “People are buzzing, where will Anna Wintour [editor in chief of Vogue] get her hair cut,” she said. “Where will people go to get their nails done; where will they eat lunch; where will they shop for clothes?” The development around the new building has slowly come into focus since 2001. Years of political wrangling and economic difficulties slowed the development at the former site of the Twin Towers, where a smaller tower is open and financing for another appeared secure last week. Another milestone in the area was the May opening of the National September 11th Memorial & Museum. For many personally affected by Sept. 11, the presence of the memorial and its plaza means the new World Trade Center complex is far more than an upscale office district. “I am happy we’ve gotten to this point, though it may have taken longer than we hoped,” said Lee Ielpi, a retired city firefighter who lost his son, also a firefighter, on Sept. 11 and who is board president of the September 11th Families’ Association. “I would hope that Condé Nast understands that this is good ground that building sits on, sacred ground. In that respect yes, we must rebuild, but we must never ever forget why we’re building it.” The tower is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Durst Organization, a New York family-run real-estate company. The building and its security plans were designed with input from the New York Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, said Steve Plate, director of World Trade construction for the Port Authority. “We’re getting to the end of the journey,” said Mr. Plate. “To me it’s joyous but also a bit of sadness for all the friends [lost on Sept. 11] and the challenges we worked through these 10-plus years.” The introduction of regular office life to the building is expected to help speed its office leasing. In May, the owners cut asking rents nearly 10% to $69 a square foot for larger tenants on the tower’s middle floors. Since then, the building has signed about 100,000 square feet of deals with six tenants, according to Durst, which manages leasing with Cushman & Wakefield Inc. That represents about 3.3% of the tower’s office space. Overall, One World Trade Center’s office space is slightly more than 58% leased. Prospective tenants still ask questions about the tower’s safety—but far less frequently, said Tara Stacom, executive vice chairman at Cushman, who is leading the firm’s leasing team at One World Trade Center. “Time has moved on and New Yorkers are so resilient and forward thinking,” Ms. Stacom said. “I don’t get the questions like we used to when we first started out.”

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