Providing a road map to aid Downtown’s recovery

By Albert Amateau

Wall Street Rising will open its free Downtown Information Center, a technologically advanced one-stop information resource on Thurs. Sept. 4 in a 1,800-sq.-ft. street-level store at 25 Broad St. at the corner of Exchange Pl.

The $2 million center will contain one of the most complete databases available anywhere, listing every Downtown restaurant, retail store and apartment building, with an up-dated catalogue of vacant retail space, neighborhood events, points of interest, parks, schools, activities, cultural programs and grant opportunities.

The centerpiece will be a 12-ft.-tall backlit painted map of Downtown with every building between Chambers St. and the Battery. The opening of the Information Center’s Web site, www.downtowninfocenter.org, will coincide with the 12:30 p.m. opening on Thursday, and the center will have five computer kiosks to access the database.

“It’s a wonderful space that we’ve been working on for a year and a half,” said Julie Menin, founder of Wall St. Rising, the not-for-profit group organized in response to the World Trade Center attack and dedicated to restoring the commercial and residential vitality of the Financial District.

“We received so many phone calls with questions about retail space for rent, schools, parks and restaurants, that rather than send people from agency to agency we decided to create this space. There is no other one-stop shopping center for information Downtown,” Menin said.

The center will also serve the neighborhood with space for community meetings, lectures, business seminars, food and wine tastings and book-readings. “It was very important for it to be at street-level location so that tourists, residents and people who work in the neighborhood could walk in.” said Menin, who pointed out that the center is diagonally across from the New York Stock Exchange in the middle of the Financial District on a corner with heavy pedestrian traffic.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the pro-bono services of the David Rockwell Group and Fred Schwartz Architects, great architects, who designed the center and Pentagram who provided the graphics,” said Menin, a lawyer and business person who works and lives in the Financial District. Bruce Menin, the owner of the building and Julie Menin’s husband, donated the retail space for the center.

Schwartz designed the renovation of the Whitehall ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan and helped design the Towers of Culture, a finalist that was under consideration for the World Trade Center site.

Julie Menin, said the city helped her with the map. “We went to the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and asked for a base-map,” she said. “Then we asked Deloitte Consulting to create the data base – they donated 800 hours of work,” Menin said.

The center will have plasma screens with changing displays of information on concerts, museums, new store openings, restaurants and opportunities for local businesses to advertise. A digital community bulletin board will offer current information on festivals, free music programs and other community events.

Visitors will be able to click on an interactive map and plot a walking tour, with precise distances between points. Finding all the fast food restaurants in a two-block area of any address, or almost any kind of business, will involve just a click or two. ATMs and other services open on weekends will also be in the database as well as business that are children-friendly.

The hours of operation will be Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

“The services here are at the core of our mission to restore the vibrancy and vitality of Downtown Manhattan – critical to our future as a true 24/7 community,” said Menin.