7 World Views
by Barry Owens
Camouflaged in the color of blue sky, an unmanned balloon was launched last month on a simple mission: to capture with its dangling camera the view from 1,400 feet above the future site of the Freedom Tower. The idea was to show potential tenants how much of the world they would see out of their office windows if only they would sign on the dotted line.
Similarly, a film crew donned hard hats and rode a construction hoist to the top of 7 World Trade Center to check light levels and find prime locations for a planned shoot with the building's developer, Larry Silverstein, and Gov. George Pataki. The pair were part of the cast in a promotional video unveiling the redesigned Freedom Tower and extolling the virtues of occupying office space so very high above Lower Manhattan.
The views are certainly extraordinary, but so far they have not been enough to lure tenants to either address. Late last month, however, word came from Albany that the state will provide rent subsidies of $5 per-square foot for the first 750,000 square feet leased at the World Trade Center site and $3.80 per square foot at 7 WTC-currently leasing at $50 per square foot. The incentives will be matched by Silverstein.
While the 33rd floor of 7 WTC has been set aside for Silverstein himself, the remaining 51 floors are empty. Not a single other tenant has signed a lease.
"I can tell you, happily, that the phones haven't stopped ringing" since the incentives were announced, Silverstein said at a news conference on June 29.
There is 1.7 million square feet of office space in the building, most of it filled only with sunlight. The windows are floor to ceiling, and made of iron-free glass that minimizes tint and provides almost crystal clear views.
Even on a hazy day, as the Trib discovered on a recent visit, the 741-foot-tall building affords a view to be found nowhere else Downtown.
To the west there is Battery Park City. The World Financial Center, seen in its entirety, looks much like the scale model it once was on an architect's desk. To the east, the Financial District unfolds. The crown of the Woolworth Building on Broadway is level with the upper floors where it remains a strange presence in the space, as prominent as a pyramid.
Only the ridge of towers in Midtown prevents one from seeing as far north as Central Park. And of course there are panoramic views of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty and as much of Brooklyn and New Jersey as you care to take in.
But it is the more immediate view to the south that may speak to one reason the building has thus far failed to find tenants: The footprints of the World Trade Center towers are visible from every floor.