NEW YORK CITY-The commercial real estate community isn’t flinching in its response to the September 11 terrorist attack that leveled the World Trade Center and crippled the Pentagon. Our respondents are calling for a rebuild of the class A property not only as a matter of business necessity but also as a point of US pride.

“Yes, we should rebuild and rebuild higher,” says one respondent who identifies himself as an officer in the US Air Force Reserves. “Show the world that we are the greatest country on earth with the greatest available resources. We should build a tower that surpasses any expectations to show the world that from tragedy, we will always find triumph in the depth of the American Spirit.”

“Yes it should [be rebuilt]” says another writer, “ there is no question in my mind. The terrorists placed a high value on the symbolism of these office towers. Well, so do we. Build it just as tall, if not taller than before. Rebuilding the towers would express symbolically what mere words cannot. They cannot and will not phase us…this is America.”

While the call to rebuild was virtually unanimous, for many respondents, realities beyond sending a global message prevailed, such as the need to remember those lost in the attack: “Yes [rebuild],” says one participant, “but in a different form. I would favor a group of smaller buildings designed to evoke “family” or “community”. Also, I think they should be grouped around a large plaza with a central monument, perhaps a reflecting pool with lights that reflect the silhouette of the former towers (such as is now being proposed as a temporary measure). A delicate balance must be struck because the frank reality is that the site is going to be the tomb of thousands. We cannot simply build over these peoples’ graves. Yet, leaving a 16-acre vacant graveyard will be sadder. We must rebuild yet respect the last resting place of the victims.”

Many respondents addressed the modern-day concern of building another target, and those sentiments are best summarized by two writers: “The WTC should be rebuilt, although I question the wisdom of taking it to the same heights. The redesign will certainly require formidable structural integrity, enhanced fire protection and significant escape capability.”

“Is it economically feasible to anticipate that tenants, especially the former traumatized employees, will re-occupy a massive structure?” asks the second writer. “Real Estate development is risky at best. This redevelopment would require an investor with ice in his veins.”

It should be noted that, while thoughts on rebuilding ranged from an emphatic yes to a simple no, the overwhelming majority–more than 90% of those who commented–were in favor of some form of rebuilding. Most of these, favored a design different–and lower–than the Twin Towers.

Our survey also considered some of the other ramifications of the attack, specifically on the Manhattan real estate market and on real estate in general. According to 49% of our survey respondents, high-rise buildings are going to be devalued as a result of September 11, but only for the short term. While 34% see no decrease in asset worth, 17% think that the devaluation will be long term.

When it comes to leasing performance, the vote is split evenly (43% to 43%) between those who bet high-rise offices will hold their upper-floor rental rates and those who don’t. Some 14% say upper-floor rents will slip.

The havoc that the attack wrought on the Manhattan CBD is forcing a lot of respondents to reconsider the worth of the suburbs and 62% of our respondents say the ‘burbs will benefit. Approximately 12% say there won’t be any significant outlying gain, and 26% say that the gain will be only short-term.

While suburban real estate may improve, the overall economy can only weaken still further, according to 62% of our respondents. But, if a definitive military response comes from the US, 29% say that this will spike the economy from its doldrums. Only 2% think there will be no impact.

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