By Tom Acitelli | Crain’s New York Business
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Jeremy Moss was working at Forest City Ratner when the first towers at the reconstructed World Trade Center began sprouting. In 2008 he joined Silverstein Properties, the leaseholder and developer of much of the trade center complex. Moss—whose role as Silverstein's leasing director has of late focused largely on filling 3 WTC with tenants such as advertising firm GroupM—expects Lower Manhattan's recovery to continue despite competition from rising commercial hubs such as an upzoned Midtown East and Long Island City.
What were some of the challenges in drawing companies to the World Trade Center?
No. 1 was getting people to see beyond the events of 9/11, to envision a place that could become one of the most desirable places to live and work in New York City. Silverstein Properties Chairman Larry Silverstein had that vision. At the time I was working for Bruce Ratner, so I hadn't given it a lot of thought beyond just observing what was going on. But I knew enough about the city, having grown up here, to recognize that Lower Manhattan had unique qualities that make it incredibly attractive.
Do you worry about the rise of outer-borough commercial hubs, such as Downtown Brooklyn?
I think they're essential to the long-term health of the city. Our ability to have a full diversity of offerings and to take full advantage of our transportation infrastructure is going to be key to our success.
How far along are you on leasing at 3, 4 and 7 WTC?
Seven is full. Four is full. Three we opened a little over a year ago, and I believe we're at 71%. I'm hopeful by the end of the year we'll be pushing 80%.
Broadly speaking, what is the tenant mix?
It's remarkable because Lower Manhattan, when I was a kid, was characterized by three kinds of occupancies: finance, government and law. Today what's happened at the World Trade Center is reflective of what's happened with all of Lower Manhattan. You have every conceivable industry represented. I think it's reflective of a demographic shift. The people now living in many neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Jersey have allowed these industries to move to Lower Manhattan and thrive. It's interesting that our anchor tenant at 3 World Trade Center is one of the largest advertising-holding companies in the world, WPP, and it's put all of its digital agencies in that building. The average age of the employees is something like 30.
Can you give a sense of the rents?
Rents in the $80s and $90s per square foot are achievable at 3 World Trade Center. In the case of one particular lease, we broke $100 a foot. [Moss declined to disclose the tenant but said it was on the tower's upper floors.] I think that's just people recognizing the value of not only this location, the transit access and the proximity to talent, but the quality of the building.
Do you worry the problems with the subway and the MTA will affect the desirability of the area?
No. I think our transit system is the lifeblood of New York City. It always has been. As a New Yorker, I'm very encouraged by the energy and focus that is being placed on our transit system. With the investments being made now—both for capital and operating—I think we're going to see improvements over the next couple of years that are overdue but that will allow us to continue to be an incredible global city and support growth.