The 9/11 attacks destroyed eight office buildings and seriously damaged seven other nearby towers. Now, a disfigured, 40-story office tower that has loomed over Ground Zero since the attacks will be demolished. The New York Times last week reported that 130 Liberty Street has been deemed beyond repair, with the demolition expected to begin as early as July.
According to the Times, the demolition will involve "disassembling" the building rather than tearing it down as the building is still covered with asbestos and other toxic materials from the Trade Center collapse. It will cost more than $100 million to take the building down, based on the meticulous nature of the job.
The future of the property is unclear, though Deutsche Bank told the Times it is willing to sell it. The German bank bought the building in 1996 from Fisher Brothers for $83.8 million. The Bloomberg administration is reportedly interested in acquiring the property for a future residential building. If this happens, it will make 130 Liberty Street one of several residential conversions in Lower Manhattan since the attacks. Most of the conversions have involved gutting existing office buildings, rather than tearing down the property.
For Deutsche Bank, the decision comes six months after the bank declared to its insurers that the building was, in their view, beyond salvage. The insurers wanted to fix the existing structure, however—until recently. The Times article reports that just last week Deutsche Bank reached a tentative agreement with Chubb, the building’s lead insurer, allowing them to move forward with the demolition.
Will this demolition spur the owners of other, damaged office buildings around the site to follow suit? There are two other buildings along the perimeter of Ground Zero that could face demolition, such is the extent of the damage they inflicted on 9/11. One, 90 West Street, just sold in January to Brack Capital. The seller, insurance firm Aegon, sold the 24-story building for $12.25 million. Brack Capital will spend roughly $90 million more on restoration work and possible conversion into a condo building. Woolworth building architect Cass Gilbert designed 130 Liberty, which was completed in 1907.
The other questionable building is 30 West Broadway, which is owned by the Borough of Manhattan Community College. On Sept. 11, 2001, the BMCC was only three weeks from unveiling a $64 million renovation here.
"130 Liberty Street is an eyesore, so it will improve the neighborhood once it is torn down," says Brad Gerla, senior managing director at Insignia/ESG. He feels that the move will boost an area of the city that has recently been improving.
According to Gerla, lower Manhattan’s availability rate at the end of May was 13.9%, down 1.2% since the end of April. He is also seeing plenty of residential conversions in the works here, which should bode well for the area’s residential stature which was sorely tested after 9/11.