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55 percent of 1 World Trade Center leased

Cranes work adjacent to the spire on top

Cranes work adjacent to the spire on top of One World Trade Center. The last piece of spire will be hoisted to the roof on Thursday. (May 1, 2013) Credit: AP

The iconic new 1 World Trade Center will fill much more floor space than the 55 percent currently leased 18 months before its expected completion, according to the tower's developers and urban planning experts.

Condé Nast, the biggest tenant; the federal government; China Center New York; and the Legends Hospitality Group, which manages the observation deck, are the only companies that have signed leases for the high rise so far.

The gleaming tower, which is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, sits just northwest of Ground Zero and the National September 11 Memorial.

Developers said they expected this slow pace for the leasing of the sky-high real estate.

"One World Trade Center really doesn't have any competition," said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Durst Organization, which is codeveloping the tower with the Port Authority.

"The building's size and height means there's really no comparison in New York City."

Barowitz said he expects more leases to be signed by opening day and the skyscraper can accommodate a variety of companies in the media, finance and technology industries.

"We've had interest from all of those sectors," he said.

The fact that those types of companies are more willing to work downtown than in the past when the area was known for its law firms and banking houses "will ultimately work in the World Trade Center complex's favor," said Matthew Lasner, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College.

Unlike other recently built skyscrapers in Manhattan, including the Bank of America Tower and The New York Times Building, the World Trade Center didn't have a major corporation anchoring it before construction began. But the new highrise's iconic status should counter the $70 per square foot rental tab, experts said.

"Downtown has gone through numerous obituaries and they never prove correct," said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

In fact, prospective tenants are eagerly waiting to look at the actual space once construction is finished before making a deal, said Seth Hirschhorn, senior managing director at real estate group Citi Habitats. He said completion of other projects in the area, such as the Fulton Street transit hub, will be a major incentive for companies.

"As we get closer to 18 months from now we'll see a lot more leases," Hirschhorn said.

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