The Evolution of the World Trade Center 15 Years Later

September 12, 2016

Lance Leighton

Founder –
New York State Licensed Real Estate Salesperson

Call 516-557-1160

What is really going on where The Twin Towers used to be?

In light of the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, we thought it would be honorable to discuss the progress of the World Trade Center, as well as the activity occurring in this once devastated neighborhood of downtown Manhattan.  Since the tragedy, it has taken the city nearly 15 years to recover from an office space and retail standpoint and now the revitalization of this submarket is happening at a staggering pace.  The new World Trade Center is vastly different from the former complex that once existed, and these state-of-the-art, modern skyscrapers are not only in the international spotlight but also commanding a tremendous amount of attention and activity from major tenants in New York City.  Though these newly constructed glass and steel towers are a stark contrast from the behemoth masonry structures that previously existed, it is important to understand the evolution of the neighborhood from 15 years ago, to where it is today.

Prior to September 11th, 2001, the former World Trade Center measured approximately 13.4 million square feet, split between seven buildings and spread across 14.6 acres.  The Con Edison substation that provided power to Lower Manhattan was located in the base of 7 World Trade Center and destroyed in the wake of the terrorist attacks (click here for the original WTC Map).  Gene McGrath, the former Chairman of ConEd (controlling the firm at the time), urged Larry Silverstein, the owner, to rebuild as soon as possible- especially since they were temporarily providing power to Downtown Manhattan through emergency generators.  Within two weeks of the collapse of the towers, Silverstein Properties had their first meeting to kickoff and rebuild 7 WTC– which became the leading office building resurrected on the site.  David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merill won the business for principal architect and construction began in 2003 with the building topping-out in 2006.

Today, 7 World Trade Center measures 750 feet tall, spans 52 stories and offers roughly 1.7 million square feet of Class A office space and retail.  The electric substation was rebuilt and now inhabits the first 10 floors of the building, while the office floors continue thereafter.  Aside from the prominent anchor tenants, such as Moody’s, Wilmer Hale, and MSCI, the composition of the building is primarily financial services, creative and law firms. Though there was originally skepticism pertaining to the demand and viability of both the tower and neighborhood, Silverstein successfully leased over 97% of the building, leaving a mere 50,000 square feet available for lease today.  7 World Trade Center’s reception and traction were quite impressive and were catalysts for the other towers and their designs.  It’s success also demonstrated the sustainability of the neighborhood, while also solidifying that there was indeed demand for new office product, at a site that was originally highly scrutinized due to the worldwide sensitivity from the infamous attacks.

Unlike the swift timeline for completing 7 World Trade Center, it was a significantly longer endeavor to put the construction of One World Trade Center into motion.  The site,which was originally owned by The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, teamed up with a very successful and experienced multi-generational real estate family as a co-developer of the project, The Durst Organization, and construction was completed in 2013.  Erected to a mind-blowing 1,776 feet in height and spanning a cloud-hovering 104 stories, the building encompasses over 3 million square feet of commercial space and is the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere.  It is also the sixth tallest building in the world.

When Skidmore, Owings & Merill designed the building, environmental sustainability was paramount to their envisioned design.  As a result, the structure and interior were fabricated from recycled materials, including gypsum boards and ceiling tiles.  The tower was also designed to utilize off-site hydroelectric and wind power, and boasts energy saving solutions such as interior lighting equipped with automatic dimmers that adjust depending on natural light levels.  These types of “green” practices enabled 1WTC to earn a LEED Gold Rating.  In addition to being energy efficient, this trophy office building features floor-to-ceiling windows, extra-high ceilings, and highly efficient floorplates.  Due to the relative value at 1WTC for new construction in comparison to its Midtown counterparts (the pricing ranges from the high $60’s/psf on the mid-rise floors to the high $80’s/psf in the tower), today the building is about 70% leased, with just under one million square feet available and a tremendous amount of activity pending.   The major tenants that have committed to the building are Condé Nast, GSA, High 5 Games and xAd.  Similar to 7 World Trade Center, the majority of leasing activity has been with media, tech, and financial companies- which also holds true for 4 World Trade Center, the building that became available for occupancy shortly after 1WTC.

The original 4 World Trade Center was a nine story low-rise office building built in 1975 and stood only 118 feet in height.  Prior to 9/11, the major tenants were Deutsche Bank and New York Board of Trade.  The new 4 World Trade’s groundbreaking began in 2008, reached street level in 2009 and was finally completed in November 2013.  Measuring 977 feet high, with 72 stories and 2.3 million square feet of commercial space, it is now the second tallest skyscraper in the rebuilt World Trade Center behind One WTC.  Upon completion, however, both 2 and 3 WTC will be taller than 4.

Nearly the entire base of the building has been leased up by the City of New York, Port Authority, and Media Math.  A portion of the retail on the 3rd floor was taken by Eataly, the largest Italian marketplace in the world.  Most recently, Zurich Insurance and Sterling Equities have both taken large swathes of office space throughout the midrise floors, leaving about 500,000 square feet available across the midrise and tower.


The Marriot World Trade Center Hotel was previously located where 3 World Trade Center, another Silverstein/Port Authority development, is currently under construction.  The project lies on the east side of Greenwich Street, across from the previous Twin Towers.  Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is designing the building, which will be 1,079 feet tall with 80 stories and about 2 million square feet.  The building is slated for completion in 2018. The only tenant to commit to 3 World Trade Center thus far is Group M, who is going to be taking about 700,000 square feet paying in the $70’s per square foot.  Pricing for the rest of the building is not yet determined.

Lastly, 2 World Trade Center was originally built in 1973 and was the 2nd tallest building in the world after One World Trade Center. It had 3.8 million square feet of office space and its main tenants were governmental organizations. Silverstein and Port Authority began construction for the new 2 WTC back in 2010 and the completion date has still not been determined. It will measure 1,340 feet with 81 stories. None of the 2.8 million square feet of commercial space coming available has been leased or priced, though you can watch an awesome video about the evolution here.

In the last 10 years, more than 200 technology, advertising, media and information, or TAMI, tenants have taken roughly 6.8 million square feet of space in Downtown Manhattan. Law, consulting, design and other professional service companies grabbed another 3.26 million square feet and financial services firms accounted for another 2.53 million square feet of leased space. In total, 17.1 million square feet of space has been leased since 2006. In addition, the Port Authority-owned Transit hub designed by Santiago Calatrava opened earlier this year, which serves 11 subway and PATH lines costing about $4 billion. Although the WTC site has coming a long way, we can see that it is far from done with renderings for the new WTC Performing Arts Center recently being released. Not only will we continuously see the WTC becoming a business destination but it is becoming the cultural heart of Downtown New York City as well.



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