In a basic sense, there’s no such thing as forgetting about 1 World Trade Center. But while we know what the SOM-designed 1 World Trade Center will look like (and if you’ve forgotten, you can always look up), of course, and its green features and LEED Gold certification have been known for some time, there’s still something of a challenge in thinking of the ambitious and incredibly long-gestating project as anything but an abstraction. Nearly a decade after September 11, things are belatedly happening at Ground Zero, but everything about 1 World Trade Center — the weird kitsch of its 1,776-foot height, the awesome and awesomely stymied Frank Gehry-designed Ground Zero Cultural Center, the depressing sideshow over the non-Ground Zero non-mosque last summer — still feels strange and un-concrete and a little bit embarrassing. Which makes it that much more welcome, to those of us who are ready for a non-abstract 1WTC and to those pulling for the success of one of the most ambitious green buildings in Manhattan, that Conde Nast announced today that it will sign a $2 billion lease for 1 million square feet of office space at 1WTC. And with that, this stubbornly still-abstract project locked down both a marquee anchor tenant and a blessedly concrete spot in the lower Manhattan real estate conversation.
The first hints of Conde Nast’s move to 1WTC came months ago, but… well, if you’ve read this far, you already know why the promise and prospect of this deal always felt kind of amorphous. In the New York Times, Charles V. Bagli offers a meticulous rundown of the (naturally) long-in-coming deal, which has some very advantageous terms for Conde Nast, but also represents something of a coup for the Port Authority and incoming 1WTC leasing partner the Durst Organization.
“Besides matters of costs, terms and incentives, the negotiations involved reams of traffic studies and security discussions, to ensure that its black cars (more than 100), its racks of designer dresses and its well-shod executives would be able to pass swiftly each day through the police-imposed security zone that is to surround the complex,” Bagli writes. “To attract Condé Nast, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, had to take on some risk, notably by agreeing to assume the last four or five years of the company’s current lease in Times Square. But the deal, worth an estimated $2 billion over 25 years, still represents a victory for the Port Authority, which has suffered criticism for years of missteps, delays and political squabbling over the rebuilding of the trade center.”
And, as the early paragraphs of this post prove, is still suffering that sort of criticism. As always with both 1WTC and Manhattan real estate, nothing can be assumed done until people start unpacking their boxes and decorating their cubicles. But for the moment, it seems like this most abstract of green building projects just got a million square feet of real world credibility. And for those of us who have watched and waited for some good news out of Ground Zero for nearly a year now, that’s something to cheer about.