By Wendy O'Dea | USA Today
Six months after the World Trade Center tragedy, Los Angeles resident Carmine Montalto decided to move east and settled – surprisingly – in Lower Manhattan not far from Ground Zero. The area had barely begun its recovery and deals were abundant.
"It was peaceful, albeit sad," Montalto said. "When I first moved, there were very few shops or quality restaurants, but now it’s like Times Square," he says, noting the area’s popularity and abundance of tourists.
Lower Manhattan is indeed booming, despite the devastation of September 11 and extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy six years ago. It's estimated that more than a billion dollars have been pumped into the area through private investments and government funding, much of it from the Howard Hughes Corporation, which has spearheaded the revitalization of the South Street Seaport.
The centerpiece of the new Seaport is Pier 17, a glass-walled entertainment hub that will be home to restaurants by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Andrew Carmellini, and David Chang; 19,000 square feet of space already occupied by ESPN studios; and a rooftop concert venue that will potentially be converted to an ice rink during winter months.
Businesses at Pier 17 are opening in stages, but the 1.5-acre open-air rooftop venue made its debut in summer 2018 with its Rooftop Concert Series, a partnership with Live Nation. Among the inaugural lineup were Amy Schumer, Kings of Leon, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and country artist Hunter Hayes.
Nearby, the Seaport’s historic Tin Building is also being renovated, and the Italian brand 10 Corso Como will open its only U.S. location on the first floor of the historic Fulton Market Building. That space will feature a café, fashion center, art gallery and gardens that are opening in September (in conjunction with New York Fashion Week).
The once raw and rustic seaport has definitely polished its shine and that fact has not been lost on the hotel industry. A few blocks from Pier 17 at Peck Slip, Maggio and Ignazio Cipriano have opened their second U.S. luxury hotel – Mr. C Seaport – right along the waterfront.
Previously a Best Western, the 60-room property is one of few in Manhattan that offers luxury suites with large open-air, furnished terraces. And the panoramic views of Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline make the investment worth it. Guests are welcomed with a signature Bellini and have access to a car and driver who can transport guests within three miles of the hotel.
Rooms and suites at Mr. C’s are fitted with sleek teak veneers, rain shower heads and warm, earthy hues. State-of-the-art technology has also been incorporated with multiple USB outlets, streaming and the ability to digitally notify the staff of your room status.
Mr. C Seaport and its affluent aesthetic is not the only property pulling luxury travelers away from midtown. The Four Seasons, whose signature New York property is on 57th Street near Park Avenue, opened a downtown location in 2016 geared toward millennials – or just a younger generation in general than their traditional midtown clientele.
With a state-of-the-art fitness facility and an indoor lap pool, the Four Season’s high-end spa offers both traditional and specialized treatments, as well as a Resident Healers Program. To support travelers and locals pursuing a holistic lifestyle, spa guests can book one-on-one appointments with one of three healers who specialize in areas such as acupuncture, crystal healing and mediation (not to mention that one is a clairvoyant). The hotel also offers a health and wellness menu for the spa and in-room dining.
Lower Manhattan has seen a quite a boon in its overall room inventory. According to the Alliance for Downtown New York, there are currently about 7,000 hotel rooms compared with less than 3,000 in 2010. And that’s likely to continue to increase.
Moxy, Marriott’s more affordable new brand geared toward a younger crowd, will open a new downtown location in late 2018. And in a twist that combines a hotel with a co-working space, The Assemblage offers fresh, brightly-lit rooms, most of which include a kitchenette – a nice touch in a city that can quickly drain the bank account.
Guests staying at The Assemblage are also able to use some of the co-work space, as well as the meditation and yoga rooms, for no extra charge.
The Assemblage restaurant includes vegetarian and Ayurvedic menu options, not to mention a great vibe that supports the company's ethos of making a commitment to personal transformation. (But more on that impressive new approach to hospitality another time.)
The restaurant scene taking shape in Lower Manhattan is equally as impressive. Internationally renowned sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa and partner Robert De Niro moved Nobu New York downtown in early 2017. Known for its miso black cod and outstanding omakase, Nobu occupies two floors, with a circular neoclassical bar on the main level, and the more-modern dining room downstairs.
Mr. C Seaport and Four Seasons Downtown have also opened noteworthy signature restaurants. Bellini, the cozy all-day restaurant at Mr. C Seaport, takes a modern, somewhat lighter approach to Italian cuisine with Executive Chef Silvano Fiorindo helming the kitchen.
Alternatively, The Four Seasons – not far from Wall Street and the Financial District – draws a more buttoned-up business crowd to Cut, the first New York-based restaurant from restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. The upscale steakhouse is known for its massive cuts of beef, particularly Wagyu, both American and Japanese.
Of course, just a short walk from all of these locations are attractions that top the bucket lists of many visitors, from the panoramic views of the city from the top floor of the Freedom Tower (One World Trade) and the Statue of Liberty to the September 11 Memorial and Museum and Fraunces Tavern – the latter steeped in history from revolutionary times.
The Tavern, where George Washington bid his farewell to the Continental Army in 1783, still operates today. When dining there or touring the museum, it’s not hard to sense the ghosts of old New York that once walked its still-intact cobblestone streets.
Exiting Fraunces Tavern into the culinary, fashion and cultural mecca that Lower Manhattan has become actually feels like some form of time travel, reminding us again that what's old has become new again.