Brookfield Place braves pandemic pain to thrive downtown with new rental deals

Brookfield Place survived the events of 9/11 (which buried the complex in ashes) and the Great Recession (which drained some of its big office tenants). Superstorm Sandy hardly put a glove on him.

Now, the 14-acre mall originally called the World Financial Center is weathering the worst disaster ever, the pandemic, with remarkable grace even as the downtown business scene struggles.

The four office towers dating back to 1989, as well as the latest additions, are all nearly full. The glamorous shopping and dining segment is booming with new leases and significantly increased traffic.

Three new long-term office deals at 225 Liberty St. – Formerly the second world financial center – brought in 1.739 million square feet to 97 percent rented. Total commitments are over 67,000 square feet to Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consultancy; DRW Holdings LLC, a trading company; and an unspecified investment management company.

Neighboring 250 Vesey Street and 300 Vesey Street (a smaller 1996 tower originally built for the New York Mercantile Exchange) are 100% leased, while 200 Liberty Street and 200 Vesey Street are 90% leased.

Meanwhile, 94 percent of the 360,000-square-foot shopping and dining center, centered around a palm-fringed, glass-encased conservatory, is leased. Its success stands in stark contrast to the winding Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield World Trade Center to the east that links to the underground Brookfield Place Center.

Brookfield Place features a 360,000-square-foot shopping and dining center centered around a palm-fringed, glass-encased conservatory.
Brookfield Place features a 360,000-square-foot shopping and dining center centered around a palm-fringed, glass-encased conservatory.

Although URW does not disclose vacancy levels, huge portions of the WTC remain vacant, such as the Three World Trade Center’s retail base. (However, the office towers owned by the Durst Foundation, the Port Authority, and Larry Silverstein do very well. Like Brookfield Place, it’s a bright downtown spot amid a sea of ​​old, unleased buildings.)

Brookfield’s retail complex has attracted 17,000 square feet of new stores and restaurants since early 2021—among them the Adam Grooming Atelier, Plaza M Spa and The Wonder. Several new “chef-led” restaurants have also opened at Hudson Eats, Brookfield’s fast food hall.

Foot traffic at the mall is up 53 percent since 2021 and 200 percent from the 2020 recession, according to Brookfield. Lululemon just signed a new lease agreement to double the size of its store to 5,000 square feet.

The Brookfield complex has added several new stores and restaurants, including a new Portside pop-up.

This month Brookfield launched a pop-up called Portside that offers free snacks, drinks and public events on the plaza overlooking the harbor.

The complex appeared to be in trouble after the 2008 recession when some of the larger office tenants including Merrill Lynch either left or were downsized and the entire area was considered a stagnant shopping district. The name of her World Financial Center sounded like the overall picture.

But its smart rebranding to Brookfield Place, and the $250 million the developer spent redesigning public spaces in 2014 and 2015, plus redesigning office tower lobbies and systems upgrades later, helped attract dozens of new tenants. Among them: Time Inc. and Jones Day and Northwestern Mutual.

The developer refused to share the existing rents. We reported that the asking rent at 200 Liberty was in the mid-1970s per square foot in the old 2019 year.

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