High Rise Facilities’ editorial director, Travis Barrington, recently toured the World Trade Center (WTC) site in New York City, accompanied by Serge Demerjian, development and construction manager for Silverstein Properties and Jerry Piserchia, senior project manager for Schindler Elevator.
Soaring above lower Manhattan at 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center (1WTC) was declared America’s tallest building in November of last year by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). The building, designed by David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and managed by The Durst Organization, contains 3-million-square-feet across 104-stories and features a grand lobby and observation deck with incredible views.
Currently, 1WTC is 55% leased to tenants Conde Nast, Vantone China Center, and the U.S. General Services. In recent weeks several smaller tenants have been announced including KiDS Creative, an ad agency; BMB Group, a London-based wealth-management company and Legends Hospitality, which is setting up headquarters in the building. Legend’s also owns the rights to operate the building’s observatory.
For years, the World Trade Center site has been hidden behind fences that are now being dismantled. Today the area is bustling with office employees, tourists, people paying their respects, construction workers, and a heavy security presence. In September, three sky divers parachuted off the top of 1WTC, after a security guard fell asleep on the job, and in March, a teenager scaled scaffolding to get to the skyscraper’s antenna. After those incidents, the Port Authority beefed up site security.
High Rise Facilities’ visit began at the 9/11 Memorial plaza’s twin reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size, featuring the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of every person who died in the 2001, as well as the 1993 attacks, are inscribed into bronze panels surrounding the pools.
An underground museum includes profiles of the nearly 3,000 victims, recordings of survivors telling their stories, and artifacts including a giant structural column belonging to one of the original towers. Designed by Tom Hennes, principal of Thinc Design, the museum received some criticism because it contains a gift shop, but overall, the museum is a sobering place for visitors to contemplate the tragedy of 9/11.
Often overshadowed in the media by 1WTC, Four World Trade Center (4WTC), faces directly onto the memorial plaza from the west. Described by the developer, Silverstein Properties, as “a light, ephemeral vision,” 4WTC (150 Greenwich Street) rises to 977 feet. This 72-story, 2,500,000 square foot skyscraper is the second largest building at the site, after 1WTC. Opened in November of last year, the impressive tower was designed by Maki and Associates, and is intended to assume a somber, dignified presence.
We entered 4WTC into a massive lobby with a 47 foot ceiling height. Large slabs of stone tile were in the process of being replaced after a recent storm riser burst, reminding us that the building’s maintainance life was just beginning. But that didn’t distract from the clean lines and serenity of the glass enclosed space. Suspended high above was a delicate, 98-foot-diameter titanium arc by the sculptor Kozo Nishino called “Sky Memory.” Composed of exposed green truss work, the sculpture is cantilevered and balanced as if it were floating.
Serge Demerjian explained to us that online software developer MediaMath is close to signing a 120,000 square-foot lease at 4WTC, becoming its first private sector tenant. The Port Authority and the City of New York have already leased a combined 1.2 million square feet at the building.
“The challenge has been getting the infrastructure done. When the infrastructure’s complete and people get a sense of what the roads and transportation network look like, then it will be much easier to lease the buildings,” said Demerjian.
Workers commuting to the WTC will enjoy unprecedented access to mass transit services. The new WTC Transportation Hub will connect to the new PATH terminal, 11 NYC Transit subway lines and the new Fulton Street Transit Center, the World Financial Center and ferry terminal.
Demerjian, who joined Silverstein from the architecture firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill in 2006, is a major force at the firm, leading its efforts to rebuild the millions of square feet of commercial office space at the site. According to Demerjian, safety is a key element of 4WTC, including double-wide stairs. “As the stairs come down, they split into four. If there’s some sort of event on one side of the building or the other, you have the option to redirect everybody to go in a safe direction.”
The security theme continues in the dozens of elevators installed by Schindler Elevator Corporation. As visitors and employees pass through the sleek, silver turnstiles in the lobby, their proximity card data is passed to the elevator destination dispatch system, which knows the floor they are authorized to visit, and directs them to the elevator which will get them there the quickest. “Not only does Schindler’s PORT destination-dispatch technology make the building safer, with access control, but it makes the visitor’s trip fast and effortless,” explained Jerry Piserchia, senior project manager at Schindler.
4WTC’s elevators are able to travel at ear popping speeds of up to 1,772 feet per minute, however we found that the ride was extremely smooth and quiet. Schindler’s destination dispatch integration includes touchless screens that blend seamlessly into the elevator banks, while inside the cabs, personalized messages can be displayed to individual visitors and employees.
In addition to the speedy passenger elevators, Schindler also installed the building’s service elevators, which travel at 1,000 feet per minute, which is unusually fast for a service car. The large capacity service elevators feature stainless steel bumper rails and diamond plated walls for durability. One of the units is rated for 10,000 pounds and includes a hoist rail to transport large items, like a piece of the curtain wall if needed.
High Rise Facilities’ tour continued on to the 57th floor of 4WTC, where a setback creates a dramatic outdoor terrace. Silverstein Properties hopes this space will become a prime selling point for a future tenant, where company events could be held with stunning views of 1WTC, the memorial plaza, midtown Manhattan and beyond.
As 4WTC’s construction wraps up, other projects on the site are accelerating. According to Demerjian, the Port Authority just released over $159 million of insurance funds to help finance the ongoing construction of 3WTC. The infusion of funds will help accelerate the project which is currently 7 floors out of the ground.