Countdown until the 9/11 Memorial opens


BY Liz Berger

A brand new Lower Manhattan

Let’s make it official: This is not your father’s Wall Street! Baby carriages and luggage carts have joined the coffee wagons to make Lower Manhattan a global model for a new kind of business district, a 21st-century center of sustainable commercial, residential and tourism growth.

While financial services remain our signature industry, in the past five years Lower Manhattan has added more than 200 new law and consulting firms, hotels, institutions of higher learning, creative industries and nonprofits to the mix. The New York Daily News, US News & World Report, the National Enquirer and the magazines of Condé Nast are all making plans to move Downtown, joining BMI, WOR, The Paris Review and Omnicom here in New York City’s new media district. No wonder the Hive at 55, the Downtown Alliance’s media-centric co-working facility, is buzzing.

The reason for this wave of relocations is no secret. While Wall Street has long been the world’s best-known and most-coveted business address, Lower Manhattan offers the full package of commercial, residential and visitor amenities and attractions, all within walking distance. Our one square mile contains a workforce of 300,000 in 88 million square feet of office space, more than 1,000 restaurants and retailers, 55,000 residents in 319 buildings, close to six million annual tourists, and 3,700 hotel rooms in 17 hotels—almost three times as many that existed in 2001.

Served by 12 subway lines, seven local MTA bus lines, 24 MTA commuter bus lines, six ferry locations, the PATH train, a heliport and about 200 other commuter buses a day, Lower Manhattan is at the center of the regional economy. 

And more is on the way: 1 World Trade Center is at 40 stories and rising and 4 World Trade Center is at seven stories with 57 to go. The long-awaited Fulton Street Transit Center is on schedule to open in 2014 with new stores and Grimshaw Architects’ iconic oculus. The Dey Street passageway will provide quick and convenient access between the transit center and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava and also scheduled to open in 2014.

Two spectacular new parks will also open this year: the first stage of the East River Waterfront Esplanade from Wall Street to Maiden Lane, and the reconstruction of Piers 25 and 26 at Hudson River Park. And, the transformation of Battery Park continues, with new landscaping, the Nieuw Amsterdam Plein information kiosk and café, the SeaGlass carousel and a playground designed by Frank Gehry. For the first time, a bikeway will connect all three parks in a loop around Lower Manhattan.

All of this is good for business and good for people. Forty-one percent of Lower Manhattan residents walk to work, and the rest have a commute that’s almost half the city average. No wonder Lower Manhattan is one of New York City’s fastest-growing residential communities. New elementary and secondary schools, new parks, green construction and a neighborhood rich in cultural attractions, farmers markets and year-round waterfront activities help explain why 88 percent of local residents say they expect to live here for at least another three years.

The happy truth is that Lower Manhattan, home to some of the world’s biggest businesses and tallest buildings, is also a little village, a place where neighbors know each other, shop-keepers wave and everyone gets together on the ball fields.

The result of 400 years of innovation, Lower Manhattan is heir to both the first and latest parts of New York City. It is home to the Digital Sandbox at the New York Information Technology Center as well as the church where George Washington prayed, Trinity Wall Street; Fortune 100 companies and artisan chocolatiers; the tall ships of the South Street Seaport Museum and the 3D stereoscopic projectors of Three-Legged Dog; and the City’s oldest and newest parks.

Nieuw Amsterdam, the first live/work community in the New World, has become a 21st-century paradigm for sustainable living. Like Walt Whitman, whose poetry is enshrined from the World Financial Center Plaza to Mannahatta Park at the end of Wall Street, Lower Manhattan contains multitudes.

Liz Berger is President of the Alliance for Downtown New York.