Brookfield Place defies pandemic pains to thrive downtown with new leases

Brookfield Place survived 9/11 (which buried the complex in ash) and the Great Recession (which drained some major office tenants). Superstorm Sandy barely put a glove on it.

Today, the 14-acre shopping complex originally called the World Financial Center is weathering the worst calamity of all, the pandemic, with remarkable grace, even as the downtown shopping scene struggles.

The complex’s four 1989s office towers and a more recent addition are nearly complete. Its sparkling shopping and dining section is booming with new leases and vastly increased foot traffic.

Three new long-term office deals at 225 Liberty St. — formerly Two World Financial Center — brought its 1.739 million square feet to 97% leased. Commitments total more than 67,000 square feet for Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy and marketing consulting firm; DRW Holdings LLC, a trading company; and an unidentified investment management company.

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

Meanwhile, the 360,000 square foot shopping and dining center, centered around the glass-covered conservatory filled with palm trees, is 94% rented. Its success stands in stark comparison to Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s limping World Trade Center Oculus mall to the east, which is connected to the Brookfield Place metro.

Brookfield Place features a 360,000 square foot shopping and dining center centered around the glass-covered conservatory filled with palm trees.
Brookfield Place features a 360,000 square foot shopping and dining center centered around the glass-covered conservatory filled with palm trees.

Although URW does not disclose vacancy levels, huge portions of the WTC mall are vacant, such as the Three World Trade Center retail base. (However, the office towers owned by the Durst Organization and the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein are doing very well. Like Brookfield Place, they are a rare downtown bright spot amid a sea of former sublet buildings.)

The Brookfield shopping complex has attracted 17,000 square feet of new stores and restaurants since the start of 2021, including Adam Grooming Atelier, Plaza M Spa and The Wonder. Several new “chef-led” restaurants have also opened at Hudson Eats, Brookfield’s casual fast food venue.

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

The Brookfield complex has added many new shops and restaurants, including the new pop-up portside.

Brookfield this month launched a pop-up called Portside that offers free snacks, drinks and public events in the plaza overlooking the harbour.

The complex appeared to be struggling after the 2008 recession when some major office tenants, including Merrill Lynch, left or downsized and the whole area was considered a commercial backwater. Its name World Financial Center sounded as heavy as its global image.

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

The developer refused to share the current rents. We reported that asking rent at 200 Liberty was around $70 per square foot in 2019.

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