By Konrad Putzier
Considering the significance of the occasion, the opening of One World Trade Center on Monday was surprisingly low-key.
No marching bands or foreign heads of state greeted the 170 or so Conde Nast employees that moved their boxes into the tower. A brief press conference, that was it.
The lack of fanfare had a lot to do with the mid-term elections on November 4. With Governors Christie and Cuomo in the final stages of campaigning, all parties agreed to hold the official opening ceremony at a later date.
But the modest opening also seemed to suit the tower’s developers, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and The Durst Organization.
Ever since the Port Authority renamed the Freedom Tower One World Trade Center in 2009, the developers have been doing their best to market the building as a more or less normal office building.
The memory of 9/11 may be important to cherish, but the anxieties that come with it aren’t exactly good for business. The hope is that now that One World Trade Center is open, it will become more attractive for tenants.
“Tenant interest always increases once a building opens. It’s no longer a matter of potential,” said Cushman & Wakefield executive vice chairman Tara Stacom, who leads the firm’s leasing team on behalf of the building. “Prospects can feel the vibrancy and better visualize the atmosphere in which they’d be located. An empty building, on the other hand, isn’t able to deliver a lot of energy, validation or excitement.”
So far, the tower is close to 60 percent leased, but the Durst Organization expects that figure to rise soon.
A day after the opening, asset management firm C12 Capital Management and consulting firm Incandescent Technologies signed built-to-suit leases at the tower totaling 6,000 s/f. Like most other tenants, they are set to move in during the first quarter of 2015.
Conde Nast, the building’s anchor tenant with 25 floors leased, is getting a head start and will move its roughly 3,000 employees downtown from its current offices at 4 Times Square over the next months.
Other major tenants are the General Services Administration with 275,000 s/f, the China Center with 191,000 s/f and the advertising agency Kids Creative with 80,000 s/f.
Even if the building is fully leased, it is unlikely to become a profitable investment for the Port Authority anytime soon. At a total cost of $3.9 billion, 1 World Trade Center is by far the most expensive skyscraper in the world. The New York Times columnist Joe Nocera once calculated that the owners would have to charge $130 per s/f to break even. The actual asking rent for the middle floors is a bit more than half of that.
The building’s high cost is in large part a result of security measures. The tower has a core of reinforced concrete, a giant concrete slab at the base and its steel beams are covered in flame-resistant material. This makes the tower difficult to destroy, and Port Authority head Patrick Foye hailed One World Trade Center as the safest Class-A office building in the world.
Unlike other office towers, One World Trade Center’s success will not be measured in immediate profitability, argued the head of the Regional Plan Association, Robert Yaro. “This project has a tremendous symbolic meaning,” he said. “An important part of our city was attacked, and the public was strongly in favor of rebuilding that part of Manhattan.”
In a statement, The Durst Organization’s chairman Douglas Durst hailed the opening of One World Trade Center as a major step forward for the surrounding neighborhood.
“Today, the world welcomes One World Trade Center into the ranks of the world’s great office towers,” he said. “The opening is also an unmistakable milestone in the emergence of Lower Manhattan as a center of technology, media and fashion.”