LARRY SILVERSTEIN, the Manhattan property developer who, aged 73, plans to devote the rest of his life to a $12 billion (£6.5 billion) project to redevelop the World Trade Center site, hopes to set a record rent for Lower Manhattan with the first of six proposed skyscrapers planned for the Ground Zero area.
Mr Silverstein is quoting rents of more than $50 per sq ft for 7 World Trade Centre, which replaces an original building of the same name that was destroyed shortly after the twin towers in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The price-tag is more than $10 per sq ft higher than current top rents in Lower Manhattan and the previous highest rents in the former World Trade Centre complex.
Adam Foster, senior vice-president of CB Richard Ellis, the property consultant that has been appointed to let the building, said the rent was justified because 7 World Trade Centre is the best building ever to be constructed in New York City.
Mr Foster said the building had already attracted strong interest from a host of financial, legal and public sector companies, adding that he was confident that CB Richard Ellis would secure several lettings during 2005.
Companies that move into the building stand to benefit from a package of incentives granted by the US Government and the Port Authority on whose land it stands. Companies will receive a 25-30 per cent discount on their power bills and tax breaks on money spent fitting out their office in the building.
Mr Silverstein claims that the building will be the first building to be certified officially as green and environmentally friendly in New York.
The glass on the building is specially designed to allow the maximum penetration of natural light, which will reduce heating and lighting costs.
The company also describes 7 World Trade Centre as the safest office building in America.
The original World Trade Centre buildings had just plasterboard inside the core, but the new building has a 2 ft thick wall of concrete core running the full length of the building. Mr Silverstein said that the concrete can withstand the equivalent pressure of that withstood by a military bunker. The building, which at 52 storeys, is two higher than Canary Wharf in Londons docklands, is due to be completed by early 2006.
Two weeks ago Mr Silverstein topped out the scheme by placing the final steel beam, adorned with the American flag, on top of the 750-ft structure, which he says stands as a gleaming testament to New Yorks ambitious rebuilding effort.
STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The 7 World Trade Centre site will be completed in early 2006, when the Lower Manhattan commercial property market is expected to be back in full swing.
3.66 million sq ft of space has been leased this year, up from 3.29 million sq ft last year.
Vacancy levels remain high at 14.7%. Average asking rents have fallen $0.83 to $30.49 a sq ft. The market is starting to turn the corner, said Adam Foster, at CB Richard Ellis.