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Brookfield Place defies pandemic pains to thrive downtown with recent lease deals

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

Now, the 14-acre business complex that was originally called the World Financial Center is weathering the worst calamity of all, the pandemic, with remarkable grace whilst much of downtown’s business scene struggles.

The complex’s 4 1989s-vintage office towers and a more moderen addition are all but full. Its gleaming shopping and dining portion is prospering with recent leases and dramatically increased foot traffic.

Three recent long-term office deals at 225 Liberty St. — formerly Two World Financial Center — brought its 1.739 million square feet to 97 percent leased. The commitments total over 67,000 square feet for Simon-Kucher & Partners, a worldwide strategy and marketing consulting firm; DRW Holdings LLC, a trading firm; and an unidentified investment management firm.

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

Meanwhile, the 360,000 square-feet shopping and dining mall, centered across the glass-wrapped, palm trees-filled Winter Garden, is 94 percent leased. Its success stands in stark comparison to Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s limping World Trade Center Oculus-centered mall to the east which is linked to Brookfield Place underground.

Brookfield Place features a 360,000-square-foot shopping and dining mall, centered around the glass-wrapped, palm trees-filled Winter Garden.Brookfield Place incorporates a 360,000-square-foot shopping and dining mall, centered across the glass-wrapped, palm trees-filled Winter Garden.

Although URW doesn’t reveal emptiness levels, huge portions of the WTC mall stand vacant, similar to the retail base of Three World Trade Center. (Nevertheless, the office towers owned by the Durst Organization and the Port Authority and by Larry Silverstein are doing thoroughly. Like Brookfield Place, they’re a rare downtown shiny spot amidst a sea of under-leased older buildings.)

Brookfield’s retail complex has drawn 17,000 square feet of recent stores and eateries since early 2021 — amongst them, Adam Grooming Atelier, Plaza M Spa and The Wonder. Several recent “chef-driven”  spots have opened as well at Hudson Eats, Brookfield’s fast-casual food hall.

Foot traffic within the mall is up 53 percent since 2021 and 200 percent from the doldrums of 2020, in accordance with Brookfield. Lululemon just signed a recent lease to double the scale of its store to five,000 square feet.

Brookfield’s complex has added many recent stores and eateries, including recent pop-up Portside.

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

The complex in trouble after the 2008 recession when some large office tenants including Merrill Lynch left or downsized and the whole area was considered a shopping backwater. Its World Financial Center name sounded as stodgy as its overall image.

But its smart rebranding as Brookfield Place, and $250 million the developer spent to revamp the general public areas in 2014 and 2015, plus later redesigns of office tower lobbies and systems upgrades, helped to lure scores of recent tenants. Amongst them: Time Inc., Jones Day and Northwestern Mutual.

The developer declined to share current rents. We reported the asking rent at 200 Liberty was within the mid-$70s per square foot back in ancient 2019.

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