What Real Estate Investors Can Learn From the World Trade Center Rebuild

This week marks the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks — events that shook the world, battered New York City, and made the threat of terrorism an unwanted reality. Anyone who’s seen the World Trade Center crumble to the ground understands the magnitude of those events, and anyone who’s ever watched a 9/11 tribute recognizes the immense tragedy that New York, to some degree, still hasn’t recovered from. From workers who lost their lives trying to escape the tall buildings to firefighter deaths in the line of duty, it’s almost impossible to look at a picture taken that day in downtown Manhattan without shedding a tear.

But if you visit lower Manhattan today, you won’t see a gaping hole where the twin towers used to stand. Instead, you’ll see a new World Trade Center site and a revitalized business and transportation hub. You’ll also see a memorial to the rescue workers and innocent people who perished in the course of the horrific terrorist attack.

Of course, there was a time when rebuilding the World Trade Center may have seemed impossible, given the way those tall buildings were reduced to a pile of debris. But one real estate developer wasn’t ready to give up on the World Trade Center, nor was he willing to let that gaping hole in lower Manhattan remain a permanent fixture in the New York City skyline.

A developer on a mission

New York City real estate developer Larry Silverstein signed a 99-year lease on the World Trade Center complex just months before the September 11 attacks. After the tragedy, Silverstein pledged to rebuild the World Trade Center despite the many obstacles in his path — air quality issues, bureaucratic holdups, lawsuits, and the general stigma of bringing a newly appointed symbol of death to life. But Silverstein pressed on, and today, the World Trade Center stands tall again — this time, with newly constructed skyscrapers, a memorial, and a museum.

Silverstein’s approach to rebuilding was methodical. His first objective, in fact, was to rebuild 7 World Trade Center, the last building to fall in the course of 9/11, because it served as the base of a substation that provided power to lower Manhattan. Since then, One World Trade Center, 3 World Trade Center, and 4 World Trade Center have also been resurrected. The only tower that’s been put on hold is 2 World Trade Center because Silverstein wants to find an anchor tenant first. The developer is also focused on completely filling up the remaining towers before focusing on construction of another.

A lesson for real estate investors

For Silverstein, rebuilding the World Trade Center has been, as he puts it, “the biggest challenge of my life.” But it just goes to show that when it comes to real estate development, persistence is key. Silverstein’s plans to quickly rebuild the towers were met with a host of pushback, but ultimately, he had a vision and saw it through. Not only is the new World Trade Center a thriving hub that houses tenants ranging from financial firms to media giants to startups but the very presence of those buildings serves as a source of hope for a city that once thought it would never manage to recover from tragedy.

Of course, Silverstein had to make concessions along the way, like ceding control over One World Trade Center to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey in exchange for the right to develop three other skyscrapers. But throughout the process, he persevered, which goes to show that a willingness to compromise, coupled with a can-do attitude, can get even the most challenging real estate projects off the ground.

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