By Eliot Brown | The Wall Street Journal
Back when the redevelopment of the World Trade Center was in its nascent stages, the Toyko-based architecture firm Maki and Associates was lured to design one of the four towers at the country’s most closely-watched development project without much fanfare.
“It was a fax,” Gary Kamemoto, a director at Maki, said on a recent tour of the building. The transmission was from Silverstein Properties, the developer of the project, who was reaching out after receiving a recommendation, he said. “It was just consultation – were we interested, or were we not?”
The result, roughly a decade later, is 4 World Trade Center, the 72-story Maki-designed tower that Wednesday becomes the first building to open on the 16-acre site. While it won’t be until at least mid-2014 that its tenants –a city agency and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey –complete the build-out of their office space and move in, developer Larry Silverstein has finished his work on the building, commemorated with a ribbon cutting scheduled for Wednesday.
People look up at a reflection of the One World Trade Center tower from a terrace on the 57th floor of 4 World Trade Center tower recently.
The tower is the simplest of the four planned for the site, a minimalist design characterized by a silvery glass straight exterior that sets back only once, at the 57th floor. At 977 feet, it is the shortest building, 799 feet lower than the top of the spire at One World Trade Center, which is being built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. And it grew quickly, at least compared with other components of the 16-acre site, as it started construction from the base of the site’s bathtub in 2008.
But like all of the towers at the World Trade Center – it could use more tenants.
The city and the Port Authority have leased about half of the building’s 2.3 million square feet. One World Trade Center, meanwhile, is about 55% leased and set to open to the public in 2015.
Mr. Silverstein’s planned 3 World Trade Center has received a commitment from one tenant—advertising firm GroupM—for about a fifth of the space, although construction there is stopped at eight stories until the lease is signed and financing is secured. And 2 World Trade Center, also a Silverstein development, is stalled at ground level until a tenant is found.
The sluggish progress is largely attributed to a slow leasing market throughout Manhattan. Growth has been slow or non-existent among the city’s big tenants, particularly within the financial sector, and few are willing to pay the high prices associated with moving to new space.
Of course, until more tenants move in, the floors won’t go completely unused.
Mr. Silverstein’s company plans to make use of the empty floors atop the tower. As the company did for 7 World Trade Center after it opened in 2006 – that building sits just north of the main World Trade Center site – it plans to rent out the floors for parties and events, offering raw concrete floors with great views of Lower Manhattan and the harbor.