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Exclusive Q&A: Larry Silverstein on WTC Progress and the Disruption of Lower Manhattan

Larry Silverstein at work

Silverstein Properties and World Trade Center's Larry Silverstein didn't think he would see this in his lifetime, but he did. The new and improved World Trade Center has helped kick-start a commercial transformation in Lower Manhattan, creating a hub for innovationmedia and tech that's attracted some of the biggest media companies to the region—including a blockbuster deal for Rupert Murdoch-run News Corp and 21st Century Fox to anchor 2 WTC. In this exclusive Bisnow interview, Larry reflects on progress and future plans for the monumental project.

A rendering of Silverstein Properties' 2 World Trade Center, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group

Bisnow: Last Friday marked the 14-year anniversary of 9/11. Since then, we’ve seen a resurgence of Lower Manhattan. Where’s the WTC today?

Larry Silverstein: There’s a lot going on, both Downtown and here at the new World Trade Center. The most exciting is the activity of 21st Century Fox and News Corp at 2 WTC. That building contains about 2.8M SF and they will occupy about 1.4M SF of that in the lower half of the building. That lease is expected to be signed by the end of 2015.

3 WTC is about halfway up. That building should be finished by the end of 2018. [And all buildings will be fully rebuilt and opened by 2020.]


Larry: Followed by 2 WTC, of course the PATH terminal (pictured) will be completed in the first quarter or first half of 2016. Once the PATH terminal’s open, there will be about 150k SF of shops, retail, which will all be tied into 500k SF total of retail shops that Westfield will be bringing in to the World Trade Center, at the base of these buildings, all tied together, underground. Overall, the retail, the office buildings, the transportation experience. There’ll be at least 70,000 families living down there, and chances are, in five years, that number will increase significantly.


Bisnow: Who are some of your tenants for the current and upcoming WTC buildings?

Larry: We’ve got a wide variety of tenancies. At 7 World Trade Center, we’re fully occupied with companies such as Moody’s, WilmerHale and BMI. In 4 World Trade Center, we’re about to be 72% occupied with companies including MediaMath, Morningstar and IEX. In One World Trade Center, I think they’re about two-thirds occupied. Condé Nast is the anchor tenant there. In 3 World Trade Center, we currently are leased to the extent of 20% with GroupM, but there are several negotiations going forward, which should bring that number much higher as we go to 2016 and beyond. So by the time we have a completed 3 WTC, I suspect we’ll be well up there in occupancy. And of course, we’re roughly 50% occupied with 2 WTC, where we’re literally going into the ground, so in five years, we expect that to be fully occupied as well.

Bisnow: How soon do you expect the rest of the buildings to fill up?

Larry: Having been in the real estate development business my entire life, what I’ve learned is that ultimately you cannot tell exactly when these buildings will fill, but one thing you know is when you build a first-class office building, well-designed and in a location that’s served by a massive amount of mass transit, a beautiful neighborhood surrounding it, with 24/7 occupancy, with retail spaces and mass transit around, ultimately, it always fills up so we will fill up this place, too. It’s just a question of time. So if you have a little bit of patience and take the long view—as we obviously needed to have when we started this project—ultimately this is going to be pretty spectacular. All I ask you to do is hang around, look back in 2020 and see how right we were.


Bisnow: What other projects are you working on in the area surrounding the WTC?

Larry: We also have about 12 hotels under construction in Lower Manhattan, including the Four Seasons Hotel (pictured) that we’re building, and the Four Seasons’ luxury condos at 30 Park Place. That building is just about fully enclosed, the windows should all be in in another month or two, and by the middle of next year we expect to open the hotel at the base of the building. Also next year, we expect to have a certificate of occupancy for the luxury condos. All of that is happening. And it’s pretty exciting.