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NEW YORK CITY-From the World Trade Center to the Chase Manhattan complex, incentives of one form or another have been active partners in revitalizing Lower Manhattan, according to participants in the RealShare Downtown New York Virtual Conference on Thursday. Such incentives from city, state and federal sources would go a long way today, as Downtown faces serious challenges, participants agreed. The online conference was the first of 14 such events scheduled by Incisive Media’s Real Estate Group, publishers of Real Estate Forum, Real Estate New York and GlobeSt.com.

Moderator Sheldon L. Cohen, senior managing director in charge of CB Richard Ellis’ Downtown office, led experts in a lively discussion of how best to re-charge the batteries of an area that all agreed was incredibly resilient. He led a Town Hall Meeting panel that included Daniel Blanco, principal and COO of Broad Street Development; Karen Bellantoni, EVP of Robert K. Futterman & Associates; Robert Knakal, chairman and founding partner of of Massey Knakal Realty Services; and Ron Cohen, EVP of Cushman & Wakefield.

Knakal and Christian Menegatti, managing editor and research director of RGE Monitor, began the conference with a discussion of the economy, the Obama administration’s stimulus program and the implications for Downtown. The discussion was moderated by Paul Bubny, editor of RENY.

“Over time, the transformation of the area into a 24/7 community will take hold,” noted Knakal. Retail expert Bellantoni predicted the neighborhood might see fewer high-end restaurants and more “neighborhood” eateries and appropriate retail that suits new residents.

Ron Cohen said increased competition from neighboring business districts like Jersey City and Brooklyn is threatening to accelerate Downtown’s vacancy rates. Then the panel discussed the news that a number of local, high-profile hotel projects have been put on hold, and agreed that more federal stimulus would be necessary to thaw out the frozen credit markets. City and state tax relief was called essential, with Knakal advocating a return of the 421g tax abatements for converting commercial buildings to multifamily.

Menegatti said the general public should be educated that federal bailouts, although widely viewed as nothing more than lifelines for large financial firms, are actually buoying the entire economy.

The conference offered listeners an insider’s diagnosis of the nation’s fourth largest business district, an area experts say is in need of a shot in the arm. The RealShare Downtown New York Virtual Conference is available on demand until Thursday, March 19.

To access the conference, click here.

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