October 17th, 2011, 11:00 AM
World Financial Center - by Cesar Pelli
Wall Street Journal
October 17, 2011
Brookfield Boosts Stake
By ELIOT BROWN
Construction continues on One World Trade Center, center.
Brookfield is committed to the World Financial Center, above left.
Brookfield Office Properties Inc., the reluctant host to the growing Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, is doubling down on Lower Manhattan by expanding its stake in the World Financial Center, the onetime headquarters of Merrill Lynch & Co.
Brookfield is in a deal with Bank of America Corp. to buy the financial firm's 49% stake in 4 World Financial Center, making Brookfield the tower's full owner, according to people familiar with the matter.
At the same time, Bank of America has agreed to keep more than one quarter of the 2.7 million square feet of space at the World Financial Center it inherited when it purchased Merrill Lynch, the people said. The old Merrill lease expires in 2013.
Normally a company that stays out of the spotlight, Brookfield has been thrown into the public eye recently because protesters have set up camp in Zuccotti Park, a public plaza that Brookfield owns. Last week, Brookfield announced a plan to remove the protesters' long-term camp and clean the park. But the vow sparked an outcry from protesters and their political allies, causing the landlord to abandon the plan.
Even before the protesters showed up, Brookfield faced challenges as Lower Manhattan's largest landlord, controlling more than 12 million square feet. The area's major industry—the financial sector—seems unlikely to expand given a sluggish economy. Across the street, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center is adding to the flood of space, with two towers with more than 2 million square feet of space without tenants set to be delivered at the end of 2013.
But Brookfield is clearly committed to the area. Its decision to buy out Bank of America in 4 World Financial follows an announcement earlier this year in which Brookfield said it would spend $250 million to revamp and update its retail at the World Financial Center.
The 750,000-square-foot lease with Bank of America, one of the largest downtown leases in years, eases some of these pressures for Brookfield. The lease is signed but in escrow, awaiting ratings agency approval, the people familiar with the matter said.
Still, Brookfield has to fill more than 3 million square feet of space in the four-building World Financial Center starting in 2013. Investment bank Nomura in June decided to leave the property and signed a lease for 900,000 square feet in Midtown.
Brookfield executives have previously expressed confidence in their ability to fill the space at World Financial, saying they are in talks with many potential tenants, and lower rents and downtown will likely help lure companies concerned about costs.
"For those that are interested in doing things that benefit the bottom line, it is by far the best proposition," Ric Clark, Brookfield's chief executive, said in an August conference call with analysts.
The duo of deals with Bank of America ends a tortuous road for Brookfield with the old Merrill Lynch space that goes back more than four years.
In fall 2007, Stan O'Neal, Merrill's chief executive at the time, agreed to leave the Lower Manhattan home altogether and build a towering new headquarters with landlord Vornado Realty Trust by Pennsylvania Station. Merrill real-estate executives had expected to present the choice to the investment bank's board at an October meeting. But the board meeting came at a time that the firm faced billions in unexpected write-downs given a declining housing market, and the real-estate team was never invited in to present, people familiar with the matter said.
Days later, Mr. O'Neal was ousted and then replaced by John Thain, who, in turn, began work on a renewal for about 2 million square feet with Brookfield, the people said. But that plan came to a halt when Bank of America took over Merrill in September 2008 as the financial sector crumbled. During the depths of the recession that followed, Bank of America then considered leaving the Lower Manhattan space entirely, the people said.
Ultimately Bank of America, which was advised by brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, decided to keep a sizable presence, and began negotiating toward the current lease deal.
The deal to sell the stake in the tower comes as Bank of America has been generally shedding many assets not central to its day-to-day operations, including real-estate holdings. A price couldn't be determined. But Michael Knott, an analyst at Green Street Advisors Inc., estimated that Bank of America's stake is valued at about $225 million to $250 million.
Brookfield, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management Inc., became landlord of the World Financial Center in 1996 when it took over the operations of property developer Olympia & York Cos., which fell into bankruptcy amid a downturn in the real estate market. Olympia & York built the World Financial Center in the mid-1980s.
Copyright ©2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
October 17th, 2011, 07:24 PM
November 1st, 2011, 10:07 AM
October 31, 2011
World Financial Center Renovation Ousts Popular Shops and Restaurants
By Julie Shapiro
A rendering of a new Vesey Street entrance with outdoor dining at the World Financial Center.
A row of popular stores and restaurants at the World Financial Center closed their doors this week to make way for renovations at the office complex.
All of the businesses on the corridor just south of the Winter Garden, including SouthWest NY, Boomerang Toys and Urban Athletics, had to shut down by Monday, World Financial Center owner Brookfield Properties said.
On Nov. 7, Brookfield is expected to begin construction on a two-year, $250 million redevelopment that will create a 25,000-square-foot fresh food marketplace and aims to draw 40 new high-fashion retailers.
Many of the ousted businesses had deep roots in the World Financial Center, including SouthWest NY, a restaurant that opened in 1999 and hung on during the difficult years after 9/11.
Staff and regulars lifted their glasses to SouthWest at a farewell celebration last Thursday, said Richard Cohn, co-owner of the restaurant.
"We wanted to go out on a high note," Cohn said.
But it won't be goodbye for long.
SouthWest NY will still offer its menu of contemporary Mexican-American cuisine for delivery daily from 5 p.m. to midnight by temporarily sharing the kitchens of other Merchants Hospitality restaurants in lower Manhattan, Cohn said.
And SouthWest NY will reopen in early 2012 in the former Gate House space at South End Avenue and Albany Street, just a block away from its old location.
Since the restaurant's new home will be larger than the World Financial Center space, Merchants Hospitality will also open a high-end lounge there, called Black Hound, Cohn said.
Some of the businesses that were forced to close were able to relocate within the World Financial Center, including Hallmark and Cobbler Express, but others, like Boomerang Toys and Urban Athletics, will have to rely on their other locations for revenue.
Karen Barwick, the owner of Boomerang Toys and a Battery Park City resident, gathered more than 300 signatures on a petition over the summer asking Brookfield to let her stay in the World Financial Center, but the store served its last customer on Sunday. It still has outposts in TriBeCa and Staten Island.
"We really want to stay here," Barwick said in July. "So many customers stop me on the street and say they can't believe we're leaving."
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April 1st, 2012, 03:07 PM
Article from February 17, 2012
"WFC Renovation Is All in the Family"
With a little blurb about the stairs:
"This biggest of design challenges caused the first rendering to eliminate the staircase, but in response to the community's desire, the final redesign keeps the stairs almost completely intact. "We had to clear space underneath the stairs so that you could see through some retail to the Winter Garden and beyond," he said. "But it will remain intact while allowing the Winter Garden to feel natural, open and with clear views to the back."
Of course they tease us by not showing a rendering of this "almost." My guess is they'll keep everything from the second floor down to the mid level circle and carve out a passage in the lower arc of stairs.
April 1st, 2012, 09:34 PM
Ah, yes ... a vomitorium leading to the retail. Most necessary.
April 2nd, 2012, 07:47 AM
April 2nd, 2012, 04:54 PM
If they must cut a passageway through that staircase (which they seem intent on doing) I would hope they'd at least NOT cut it through at the center of the lower portion of the stairways. Better to do a "Y" cut and have two vomitoria, one at either side of the lower section with a single egress at the back / east side, and thereby maintain most of the great unbroken circular expanse looking out towards (and leading up from) the Winter Garden.
April 2nd, 2012, 08:33 PM
^^^ They mentioned before plans to put retail space under there, like a coffee retailer, so perhaps by "see through some retail" they mean you can see through the opened up walls under the staircase. Remember there's a lot of space under those stairs that can be used, currently there's a men's and women's' restroom under them.
April 2nd, 2012, 09:23 PM
When did they do this?
Originally Posted by Sherpa
I almost posted about the restrooms. I imagine there's more than restrooms underneath there, though. Some old mechanical equipment maybe? And I hope you're right, but I have a feeling we are going to get the vomitorium instead. The rest of the redevelopment in the area has been a godawful mess, why not throw this one in the pile as well?
Originally Posted by JSsocal
April 2nd, 2012, 10:59 PM
There used to be a great shoeshine place under the stairs - on the East facing side.
April 4th, 2012, 03:09 PM
I thought you guys were referring to your reaction to the ugliness of it, until i followed the wikipedia link.
April 28th, 2012, 04:13 PM
Changes on the way at WFC ...
April 28th, 2012, 04:18 PM
I'm so glad I exhaustively photographed its earlier condition before they started doing... well, whatever they decided to do to this fine public space.
July 10th, 2012, 07:30 PM
View in Large
July 10th, 2012, 07:41 PM