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Home arrow Real Estate News arrow General News arrow Residential and Commercial real estate booms in Lower Manhattan
Residential and Commercial real estate booms in Lower Manhattan Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 September 2006
It has been five years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, laid waste to the World Trade Center. But today Ground Zero remains little more than an empty hole, its reconstruction stalled by lingering negotiations between competing parties, including the Port Authority, developer Larry Silverstein and New York City.

But while the sluggish pace of redevelopment of the World Trade Center site has dominated the headlines, the surrounding district of Lower Manhattan — roughly defined as the area below Chambers Street flanked by the East and Hudson Rivers — is experiencing a residential and commercial real estate boom.

Today, Lower Manhattan is the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in Manhattan, with new apartments being built in the buildings of former Wall Street residents like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. At the same time, surging rents in Midtown and other parts of New York City are driving an eclectic group of businesses to set up residence in the once financially-focused neighborhood..
A slice of real estate known for years as the city’s center of business and government and the world’s center for investments and banking, Lower Manhattan slipped from third to fourth place in the rankings of biggest U.S. central business districts in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, as the destruction of the World Trade Center took away millions of square feet of office space.

The growth in residential property has its roots in the 1990s when, faced with the exodus of financial services companies from the Lower Manhattan district for Midtown and New Jersey, New York City’s government put in place a series of incentives to encourage developers to convert commercial spaces into residential properties out of concern that occupancy rates in the area would tumble.

Those incentives have since fruit. In the past five years housing stock in Lower Manhattan has grown by 38 percent, according to the Downtown Alliance, a business advocacy group for the Lower Manhattan area. At least six new residential buildings are slated to open in the next several months — attracting an expected 8,200 new residents to Lower Manhattan.

A lack of available space and soaring rents in the tight Midtown market, where in the last few years commercial rents have risen above $100 a square foot a year, are driving a commercial real estate boom as an increasing number of businesses consider locating in Lower Manhattan.

Several high-profile tenants moving their office space to the downtown area also have spurred interest in Lower Manhattan. Goldman Sachs is building a new, 43-floor headquarters within blocks of where the World Trade Center once stood. Morgan Stanley recently signed a lease to rent additional space at 1 New York Plaza near Battery Park.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the office vacancy rate in Lower Manhattan was just 7.7 percent, according to data from commercial real estate firm Colliers ABR. Since topping out in August 2002 at 15.2 percent, it has fallen steadily to its current level of 11.4 percent.

Growth in commercial real estate is the latest stage of growth in the recovery of Lower Manhattan, says Eric Deutsch, president of the Downtown Alliance. More importantly, there is diversity in the types of businesses moving to the area.

Perhaps the most obvious symbol of both the resurgence of the burgeoning rebirth of the southernmost part of Manhattan and its shifting demographics stands across Vesey Street to the north of the World Trade Center site.

Edwina Baniqued

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