Creating a heart and soul for Downtown’s emerging neighborhoods is a focus for the project, which will fulfill many needs in the area.
Downtown Manhattan has gone through a major transformation in the past few years. The new real estate development that has been talked about for years in the area is beginning to see the signs of completion, and it is creating new behaviors for tourists, residents and office workers that have migrated to the area. The opening of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum earlier this year has begun to bring swarms of tourists to the area; the iconic One World Trade Center has begun to move office tenants in, and soon its observation deck will begin seeing hundreds of thousands visit every year; and a new transportation center that allows 300,000 office workers to commute in and out of the Downtown area every day has opened. New residential developments and the conversion of office buildings to residential space have enabled the Downtown area’s population to double over the past few years. The area’s street grid has also changed, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Realizing after the events of September 11 that the area would be forced to change, Brookfield Properties undertook a massive redevelopment of its flagship New York property, formerly known as the World Financial Center, transforming it into Brookfield Place. Home to a number of top international companies, including American Express, Brookfield Place had a retail offering that was often overlooked by visitors to the area who didn’t know it existed, mainly because it was hidden by levels of façade. The most popular area of the center was the Winter Garden, a glassed in area home to events and a well-lit, glass enclosed indoor-outdoor eating area that spanned the distance between two towers of the complex. Today, the Winter Garden is about all people will recognize when they visit Brookfield Place after its $250 million redevelopment.
Visitors to Downtown Manhattan have likely already noticed the new, iconic entryway to Brookfield Place. The multi-story glass entryway along West Street leads the way to what will be one of the largest contiguous spaces of retail in Manhattan. From its exterior, Brookfield Place also now has a two-story retail façade that will soon highlight prominent retailers like Burberry, Saks Fifth Avenue and lifestyle offerings like Equinox Fitness.
With the recent opening of One World Trade Center, there is now 100 million square feet of office space within the 1.5 square miles south of Church Street — equal to all of the office space in Washington, D.C., and most of Chicago.
“The office space really begins to underscore the density of Downtown Manhattan and how under-served it is as a retail district,” says Ed Hogan, national director ofretail leasing for Brookfield Properties.
In addition to the office market, the growth of Downtown’s residential population has created a stronger market for retailers. The population has gone from 30,000 to over 60,000 residents within the past few years. Most of the new housing developed in areas like Battery Park City is at market rate; average household income in the immediate trade area of Brookfield Place is approximately $275,000 per year. The extended area reaches to neighborhoods like Tribeca, Brooklyn and Jersey City. The newly built Fulton Street transportation center, adjacent to Brookfield Place, links the city’s subway system underground with PATH trains from New Jersey and ferries to New Jersey and Staten Island, providing ease of access for the extended market.
“The transportation changes have created new dynamics for residents and commuters,” says Hogan. “Changes in the population have also created a new demand for retail. People want to shop where they live, and they spend more money when they are in beautiful environments that allow them to linger.”
Brookfield Place has leased to a number of retailers, many of whom will open this spring, including Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Tory Burch, Omega, Zegna, Burberry, J.Crew, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenburg, Vince, Aspinal of London, Paul Smith and Salvatore Ferragamo among others. Anchoring the project will be Saks Fifth Avenue, who will open an 85,000-square-foot store at Brookfield Place. The luxury department store company will also relocate its headquarters in 400,000 square feet in the building.
Creating an entirely new platform for retailers was paramount to the success of Brookfield Place. The company added windows on the retail level so that luxury retailers could have signage outside, as well as light inside their stores. A new interior corridor creates a luxury retail atmosphere. It, too, has skylights and windows to allow more light to enter the center.
“We installed skylights and glass walls everywhere we could because natural light is so important for retailers and retail sales,” says Hogan.
Brookfield Place is a complete re-imagining of the existing structures once known as World Financial Center. Brookfield moved any semblance of an office lobby to the second level with the redevelopment, moving it away from the retail space to clearly define the spaces. The company also wanted to define itself as part of the emerging residential neighborhood Downtown.
“We wanted to be the heart and soul of the neighborhood,” says Hogan. “People who live downtown were constantly walking through our center, but we never gave them a reason to shop, dine or spend time. We wanted to create a place that had the best-in-class tenants and food offerings, and design was the major part of that.”
Starting with a clean slate enabled Brookfield to create an environment ideal for luxury retailers. It created new retail corridors with 30-foot wide store fronts that enabled tenants to showcase their brands. Brookfield wanted each brand to be a star, says Hogan. At the rear of the center, which sits along the Hudson River, Brookfield wanted to open the center to the waterfront, in effect creating another anchor. Despite being surrounded by water, New York City has relatively few places to access its waterfronts; Brookfield Place will now be one of those. The dining and plaza areas will have unobstructed views of the city or the water. The Winter Garden has 10,000 square feet of outdoor dining that is open to the waterfront.
“What we were truly after was creating a sense of place, a beautiful environment where people want to spend time,” says Hogan. “We have the energy of the city and the excitement that is naturally created by that. But we also have the tranquility of the water; it’s a combination that makes you want to spend time here.”
The company’s lease to Hermès, who is known for its meticulous selection of real estate, brought the center attention by other luxury retailers. When the center was nearly fully leased, Saks Fifth Avenue signed a deal to anchor the center with an 85,000-square-foot, full-line store. Brookfield is nearly committed on all its nearly 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
“It has been a process to get here, but in spring 2015 it will be here,” says Hogan. “The addition of luxury tenants to Downtown means that the area is really a mature residential market. The luxury tenants would not have come had the residential population not been here to support them.”
Already there is the center’s food component, part of which opened earlier this year.
“Food is important because it is placemaking,” says Hogan. “Since restaurants would also be among the first to open, we knew if we did not give people what they expected in dining that it would give the retailers confidence that we would stay true to our merchandising mix.”
A casual dining area, known as Hudson Eats, is the center’s answer to an upscale dining terrace. Already open, it features fast casual offerings primarily from local operators. Brookfield chose operators who had loyal followings so customers would follow the tenants, but who also were capable of preparing food for and serving at high volumes so they could handle the potential traffic at the center. One of those vendors was Dos Toros, a taco restaurant founded by two brothers that has four other locations in the city. An outpost of Black Seed Bagels, one of New York’s hottest new fast casual concepts, has also opened at Hudson Eats. Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar has opened its first fast casual concept at the terrace as well.
“Since food has always been one of the largest draws to the World Financial Center and now Brookfield Place — especially at lunch time — we spared no expense on the dining terrace. There are marble dining tables, custom light fixtures, and sturdy chairs,” says Hogan. “When you are there, it is like sitting in one of the nicest restaurants in the city. The views out of the waterfront cannot be duplicated. When you combine that with the best-in-class food operators that we have, who create followings of their own, it makes for a winning combination.”
Five signature restaurants — including Parm, L’Atelier and Amada — will be located at Brookfield Place, as will Le District, a French market concept. Le District is anticipated to be a strong draw to the center, featuring a variety of unique purveyors and eating areas in 30,000 square feet.
“Le District will be a huge catalyst for the neighborhood, not only for the residents but also for the tourists and office workers,” says Hogan. “Residents can pick up goods to take home or prepare at home, while office workers will be able to pop in and take something out, or stay for a quick lunch, as well as buy goods for their next meal at home.”
Concierge services, valet parking and package shipping will add amenities to the center’s luxury retail offerings, and make visits easier and more convenient.
Complementing the retail and restaurants at Brookfield Place will be a robust program of arts and events. The property is home unique events such as Tribeca Film Festival programs and a series of music concerts that draw tens of thousands of people at one time. It has also programmed themed dinners, wine events and many others centered around various holidays. The center is also home to an ice skating rink that runs throughout the winter season.
With all that is occurring Downtown, Brookfield Place is already seeing its dream of becoming the heart and soul of the neighborhood come to life. Many residents are using the center as a gathering place, and embracing the events that it is offering throughout the year.
— Randall Shearin