Report by Daniel Safarik

This tour was kindly supported/organized by:

The One World Trade Center tour began in the Vesey Street lobby, whose high ceilings and marbled walls lent an air of cool reserve to fresh arrivals from the frenetic streets. Attendees were met by Rob Becker of the Durst Organization, the building’s developer, who guided attendees to the 64th floor. Here, a marketing suite shows potential configurations of office space for various types of tenants on one half of the floor, while the other half is raw space, demarcated only text and figures indicating the dimensions of the space.

One clever device drives home one of the central selling points of the building – its extraordinarily high windows and substantial light penetration. It blacks out about two-thirds of the window, and a sign points out that the remaining cut-out is roughly the size of a typical downtown office building window.

The entire tenor of the marketing approach to the building indicates the dramatic change in potential clientele for World Trade Center that has taken place in the last few years as downtown Manhattan becomes fully-fledged mixed-use neighborhood, as opposed to a daytime-only business district focused mostly on the financial sector. From its emphasis on green credentials (the building’s LEED Gold status is embossed on a green wall), to its open-plan configuration and access to transit, the pitch is clearly aimed at the Millennial-generation workers in creative and technology industries. This is a marked difference from the brief for the original World Trade Centers, which was predominantly back offices and headquarters for financial trading firms.

Barker noted the success of this approach, confirming that the tower’s current 63% leased rate almost entirely consisted of media and technology companies. The tower’s largest tenant is publisher Conde Nast, which has its own lobby on the B1 level, directly fronting onto the underground corridor connecting to the PATH subway trains and neighboring Brookfield Place, designed in Santiago Calatrava’s signature whale-skeleton style. The space will soon connect to the Calatrava “Oculus”, which will contain a retail mall over the PATH platforms. Conde Nast estimates up to 90% of its employees arrive at One World Trade Center via public transit, Barker said.

For some tenants, the cool gray of the lobby spaces lacked color, so the response of the Durst Organization was to commission art for the space. Along the south interior wall, a gigantic abstract art piece by Doug Argue runs almost the entire length of the space. Another abstract piece dissembles a chapter of Moby Dick into a “starscape” comprised of individual letters. The tour’s most unexpected encounter was with artist Don Martiny, who was busy assembling his works for the west lobby, comprised of swirls of color inspired by the Hudson River School painters such as Frederick Church, Martiny said.

Some other parts of the building are still “works in progress,” even though it is fully operational. A temporary loading dock penetrates the east wall, and trucks back up into a walled-off space that would otherwise allow pedestrians to pass from the north to south lobbies on the same level. At present, they must descend to the B1 level and come back up on the other side of the dock. Once the PATH demolishes its temporary terminal and the Oculus opens, One World Trade Center can finish constructing its permanent loading dock, in which ramps will carry trucks five stories below grade, and a public plaza will be opened in place of the temporary terminal.

Released into the transportation corridor at the end of the tour, many of the attendees then did the obvious thing – they made a beeline for the observation deck, which opened recently. Special thanks to the Durst Organization and SOM for organizing the tour.
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