A Decade After 9/11, Upswing in Downtown Development Adds More Venues for Events

By Anna Sekula September 7, 2011, 7:45 AM EDT

Construction of the buildings at the World Trade Center site continue, and plans include a 1,000-seat performing arts center, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a transportation hub, and 488,000 square feet of retail space.

Photo: Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Although real estate growth in downtown Manhattan suffered a setback during the recent financial crisis, development of the area south of City Hall has seen a significant rebound in the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, and as a result, the number of hotels, restaurants, and cultural sites for events and corporate entertaining continues to expand. And with the construction at Ground Zero in full swing—Condé Nast has already committed to a 25-year, one million-square-foot lease at One World Trade Center, and the National September 11 Memorial is scheduled to open this month—organizations like the nonprofit Alliance for Downtown Manhattan and state-city agency the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation expect the locale to maintain the momentum in the long term.

In a report published on August 11, the alliance points to an array of telling statistics, listing everything from a residential population that has more than doubled and the influx of some 307 companies to the neighborhood since 2005 to a record-breaking nine million visitors and tourists in 2010 and 78 percent more hotel rooms than there were in 2001. Moreover, $30 billion in public and private investment funded considerable construction and restoration, which has paved the way for popular events sites like 7 World Trade Center and Cipriani Wall Street, boutique properties from Starwood Hotels and Thompson Hotels, and restaurants from names like Jeffrey Chodorow and Marc Forgione.

Perhaps most significant is the recent surge in development, which could be credited as the catalyst for the growth in events. Last year alone saw the debut of two notable hotel properties—Hyatt Hotels group's Andaz Wall Street and the extension of the W Hotel brand below 14th Street with the W New York Downtown. Additionally, the New York Stock Exchange opted to open up its landmark building to events from companies not listed on the exchange and the South Street Seaport Museum turned a fifth-floor space into a site for functions. The year also brought some extensive brand promotions like the FIFA World Cup activation from Puma and Country Living's pop-up show home.

What could fuel more functions in Lower Manhattan are the venue projects planned for the less developed areas around the World Financial Center and Battery Park City. In the fourth quarter of this year, Hilton Worldwide is expected to open the first New York location of its luxury Conrad brand, replacing the Embassy Suites site just around the corner from the new headquarters for financial firm Goldman Sachs. The Conrad New York will not only offer more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space—including a 6,000-square-foot grand ballroom—but also house three eateries from Danny Meyer.

More facilities will be available as part of the restaurant and event complex the father-son team of Harry and Peter Poulakakos have proposed for Pier A. The Poulakakos family, which already operates Harry's Café and other spots downtown, won the approval from the Battery Park City Authority for a 25-year lease of the 125-year-old site in March this year and look to open the project by 2013.

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