NEW YORK CITY-The pending relocation of Conde Nast into onemillion square feet at 1 World Trade Center has come to symbolizethe positive light in which the Ground Zero mega-project is nowseen after long being derided as a white elephant. “It’s unusualfor a deal like this to be so publicly discussed,” especially whenit hasn’t been finalized, comments Tara Stacom, vice chairman atCushman & Wakefield and head of the leasing team for the2.6-million-square-foot skyscraper since 2007. Yet Stacom tellsGlobeSt.com that neither the Conde deal nor any other single factorhas represented the pivot point.

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In Stacom’s view, the momentum has been building at least sinceChris Ward came on board in 2008 as executive director of the PortAuthority of New York and New Jersey, the bistate agencyresponsible for rebuilding at Ground Zero. “He really began toplace priorities on what had to happen and masterminded a verycomplex engineering nightmare, breaking it down into someachievable goals,” she says. Chief among those were “the completionof 1 World within a realistic timeline and the completion of thememorial” in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 nextSeptember.

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Since then, other milestones have been achieved: the signing ofBeijing Vantone, the first non-government tenant at the 1,776-foottower; and the resolution of an impasse between the Port andSilverstein Properties Inc. over the timeline and funding forcommercial construction at the site. More recent was therealization that 1 WTC would benefit from a developing partner, aselection process that ultimately resulted in the DurstOrganization taking a $100-million equity stake.

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“The Port’s terrific and they have done a yeoman’s job ofgetting a very complicated project started, but they don’t have thesame track record of putting up office buildings as they do withbridges, tunnels and roads,” Stacom says. “In recognizing the needto bring in a developer, when we went out with an RFP, the interestwas just overwhelming to us.” She notes that after would-bedevelopment partners walked the site and saw for themselves “theimportance it will have on the world stage,” they all wanted to bepart of the project.

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Since Durst was selected this past summer, Stacom and theleasing team have been working with the owner/developer on aday-to-day basis. “Having just come off the completion of 1 BryantPark, and 4 Times Square before that, they’re bringing suchexpertise to the table and helping us deliver a much better producteven than the one we had originally designed,” she says. “They havegreat insight into what tenants want and desire, and that hashelped us attract additional tenants, which we’re now trading paperwith.”

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Early on, state and federal agencies had committed to a total ofroughly one million square feet at 1 WTC. Lately the tenant mix haschanged; Stacom says New York State probably won’t be taking spacethere. “We’re in discussion with the federal government over theirlevel of interest and how much space they’d like to take,” shesays.

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As the pending Conde deal makes clear, the mix of prospective 1WTC tenants has become “much more diverse than we expected atfirst,” says Stacom. Many of these would-be tenants “tend to hire agreat share of young people. A lot of their employee base lives inBrooklyn or New Jersey, so accessibility to Downtown is mucheasier.” To make the 1 WTC space more appealing to a youngerworkforce, “We’ve redone some of our test bids to include a moreopen, collaborative environment.”

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The momentum the project has built up and the transformation ofpublic perception have been “wonderful to see, especially sincewe’ve been involved since ’07 and people would say to me, ‘why areyou doing this?’ ” Stacom says. “I couldn’t be more proud to beassociated with the group, between the Port and the DurstOrganization on this site and Larry Silverstein and what he’s doingon the East Bathtub side. It’s going to mark the city in away that we haven’t seen since Rockefeller Center was built. Andit’s going to be far more significant in size, impact and scale,than Rockefeller Center was in its day.”

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.