Tuesday 23 January 2018

World Trade Centre shopping complex 'a symbol of hope and perseverance'

The Westfield World Trade Centre (AP)
The Westfield World Trade Centre (AP)

The World Trade Centre shopping complex is set to reopen in Manhattan, illustrating how much progress has been made in rebuilding and revitalising the area since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Shops from Apple to Forever 21 to H&M to John Varvatos will serve an increasingly diverse group of area residents and workers beyond Wall Street bankers that now includes many advertising and media employees.

The new spaces will let customers tap into technology as some retailers use the space for their latest ideas.

Ford is set to open the first FordHub this autumn, a showroom for innovations that is not a dealership. Shoe retailer Aldo Group is using the opening to launch an app feature which will be rolled out to other stores. Digital billboards in the shopping centre include a 280ft-long one.

But they will also be catering to tourists who come to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

"We truly believe this will be the centre of commerce and culture for lower Manhattan," said Bill Hecht, chief operating officer of Westfield's US division.

Westfield manages the retail properties, while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the real estate.

Mr Hecht described the location as a "symbol of hope, opportunity, progress and perseverance".

The 365,000sq ft centre will have more than 100 shops, with about 60 opening on Tuesday and the rest by the winter holiday season. Eateries include Eataly's second Manhattan location, which features foods from Italy and coffee and gelato bars.

It stretches along an underground network that spans the bases of three office towers.

While mostly below street level, light beams in through the windows of the winged Oculus, designed by Santiago Calatrava, that top the transportation hub of 13 subway trains and river ferries. More than 300,000 commuters use it on a daily basis.

Westfield says 15 million travellers are expected to visit the area from the US and around the world next year to see the memorial and nearby places of interest.

"We have huge respect for this site," Mr Hecht said.

There is no signage on the side of the centre that faces the 9/11 memorial.

Every year on the anniversary of the attacks, the skylight of the Oculus - meant to symbolise the image of a dove released from a child's hand - will open to bring a slice of the open New York sky into the building.

Westfield said ensuring safety and security at the centre is the highest priority for it and the Port Authority. Uniformed police and private security will be present at the centre, Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo said, but declined to give specifics about any other measures.

"As with any high-profile public location and transit centre, there are extensive security measures that have been put in place with law enforcement and others," Westfield said.

More than 60,000 residents live within streets of the World Trade Centre area, about three times the number from just before 9/11.

The former shopping complex in the World Trade Centre was one of the most successful properties in the world, but catered to daytime weekday shopping, said Robin Abrams, vice chairman of The Lansco Corporation, a property advisory firm.

The new centre is expected to have a vibrant night and weekend atmosphere, and Mr Hecht noted a deliberate move to include shops with necessities such as pharmacy Duane Reade.

Property experts believe the centre will complement the nearby Brookfield Place, which opened in 2015 and features high-end shops such as Gucci and Hermes.

It will also be different to the Seaport Mall, which is being reopened next year and is focusing on catering to local residents.

In addition to retail, a Beekman Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel as well as a performing arts centre are coming, part of the 30 billion dollars (£23 billion) poured into the central area from public and private investment since 9/11.

The lower downtown area has about 6.5 billion dollars (£5 billion) in annual buying potential, said Jessica Lappin, head of the Downtown Alliance, which manages the downtown-lower Manhattan business improvement district.

Mr Hecht expects the centre will eventually generate about one billion dollars (£768 million) in retail sales annually, making it one of the most productive of the company's sites.

Smythson of Bond Street, a British maker of luxury stationery and leather goods, has a shop in midtown Manhattan but is "really excited to be downtown", said Ruby Victor, the head of marketing.

Given all the foot traffic, she hopes being there will raise awareness of the company.

"We're still a niche brand," she said.

Aldo spokeswoman Marine Jegard said the company is happy to be at the centre. "This is the location of the future," she said.

The new centre plus the developments to come are a lot of new retail for the area to absorb.

But New York property experts believe residents have been eager for more shopping and restaurants.

"Our sense is that there has been demand for a long time that wasn't met," said Ms Lappin. "There may be some bumps along the way. This is an area that needs places to shop and eat."


Press Association

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