No area in NYC was as deeply affected by 9/11 as downtown Manhattan. And then there was Hurricane Sandy just 2 years ago. For an area that has always been top heavy with banks and financial service industry offices these twin blows meant the normal process of change and development ground to a halt.
It has gone through a long period of being a huge building site as the whole WTC site has been redeveloped, the Fulton Street transit hub has been completed, road re-alignments have taken place and shore line rehabilitation has been undertaken. New businesses have flooded in, 7 new hotels, numerous shopping precincts planned and being completed, new residential development and new bars and restaurtants are everywhere.
As new office space has become available tech startups have been happy to take advantage of rents below what is available in midtown. And media, information and advertising businesses have also poured in. And of course the premier bargain store in NYC, Century 21, has always been a rock solid presence right through all the devastation and now attracts more people than ever.
When you take into account New Yorkers pouring into downtown from the PATH Station that is part of the WTC precinct, those using the Fulton St Transit Hub and then the 12+ million tourists who come in their millions to the 9/11 museum and the dignified and beautiful 9/11 memorial itself, the sidewalks in downtown are full every minute of the day.
It is easy to talk about the area in broad strokes but if you look at just one building, 195 Broadway, the process of downtown regeneration becomes clearer. See the video which is a promo seeking tenants for one of this beautiful older Art Deco downtown building which was just being rehabbed at the time the video was made. The video does a good job of showing off the beauty of the original foyer and the facade and pointing out the advantages of hiring space in the building as opposed to office space in midtown.
Originally this building housed A.T. & T. and Western Union, belonging to industries which have had to change markedly since this 29 story building was originally built in 1916. Both firms have moved on and tech, fashion and media companies have now taken over all the office space which is showcased in the promo video. Just this week Anthroplogie, a lifestyle retail brand and Nobu, a massively popular Japanese restaurant, have annoucned they are taking space in the retail section of 195 Broadway. Two such upmarket and ‘of the moment’ businesses coming into downtown show the changes taking place
Much of the financial services industries originally located in downtown are till there but now the people who dress in sober suits and ties each day and cheek by jowl with fashion gurus, media personalities and New York foodies.
One of the beauties of downtown is that it is a contained area, bounded by the waterfront and compressed into the original narrow streets of the original Manhattan settlement. So for people who just want to stroll, it’s a very, very nice place to stroll through. There are great shops, there’s an over abundance of transport and there’s shops, eating places and bars galore. Downtown Manhattan is quite unlike what it was like 15 years ago. Go and see.