The words "rebirth," "re-energize" and "revival" are commonly spoken when referring to Lower Manhattan. But, 10 years after the horror experienced on September 11, 2001, the words have taken on more than just a somber and emotional element.
Since 2001, hotel and retail services increased 10%, and tourists and business travelers now have the choice of 18 hotels - triple the number that existed in 2001 -- with seven more new hotels slated for opening in the coming year, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. Tourism has increased by nearly 30% in just the past two years, but as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 nears, the hospitality industry hasn't lost sight of its focus.
Lower Manhattan today is undeniably both a tourist destination, as well as Manhattan's financial heart. In addition to businesses headquartered in the area and the energy of the New York Stock Exchange, the 16-acre World Trade Center site is currently under construction and will include five new skyscrapers, One World Trade Center and the Memorial Museum (set to open 2012), as well as restaurants and retail stores. Aside from the $20 billion being invested in the new World Trade Center area, an $875 million project by Frank Gehry will see the tallest residential building in New York (set to open in 2012), and in 2014, haute couture moves into Lower Manhattan when the fashion moguls at Condé Nast move their headquarters into One World Trade Center. The new development is not only a tourist attraction, but will force a surge of employment opportunities and attract more business to the area.
The suits that adorn the patrons of cafes, restaurants and sidewalks on Wall Street and in Battery Park City now mingle with tourists donning "I LOVE NY" t-shirts, and leisure travelers with cameras wrapped around their necks and maps pointing in all different directions. Ten years ago, those who stayed at a hotel in Lower Manhattan probably didn't notice the view, but today, the views of the Statue of Liberty across the water or the Freedom Tower from the guest room window is a stark reminder of the resiliency of New York.
NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York, in collaboration with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched a communication campaign earlier this year to promote Lower Manhattan to visitors. The Get More NYC: Lower Manhattan, which was designed to illustrate the recovery and revitalization of Lower Manhattan in the last decade, started June 1 and encourages visitors to stay in Lower Manhattan's hotels, eat in its restaurants, shop in its stores and take advantage of the Lower Manhattan experience.
"A crucial part of the story of September 11th is how Lower Manhattan - an area many people said would turn into a ghost town - has come back in the past 10 years," said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a press release. "People from across the country - and around the world have contributed to its revival, and now we want our visitors to see that full recovery for themselves. Lower Manhattan is where the first chapters in the remarkable story of New York City were written four hundred years ago. And it's where the next installment of New York City's story is being written today."
Hotels help fuel Lower Manhattan's revival
On Sept. 11, 2001, the 820-room New York Marriott World Trade Center Hotel - which sat in between the towers - was entirely destroyed. A few blocks down the street sits the 500-room New York Marriott Downtown (formerly called the New York Marriott Financial Center). The hotel closed after the attacks and reopened Jan 7, 2002, in hopes of providing a place for both business and leisure travelers eager to return.
"We changed the name to appeal to business and leisure travelers," said Kathleen Duffy, spokesperson for New York City Marriott hotels. "Business travel curtailed and leisure travel was down, but we had to remain viable. People started coming back, and there was a lot of 'patriotic leisure travel'" that Duffy said helped revitalize the dour mood of the area. Just this week the hotel received the flag that was originally hung in the New York Marriott World Trade Center Hotel and is now prominently displayed in the lobby of the Marriott Downtown. There were challenges along the way, "but the opening of the memorial and the museum is bringing leisure travel back to Lower Manhattan."
"People [in the area] are saying less 'Ground Zero' and more 'the Memorial'," said Duffy. "It's a shift in mindset. It's a turning point. Once the memorial is open to the general public, I think it's going to bring an enormous amount of leisure travel to Lower Manhattan."
At The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, hotel employees are gearing up for an rush of guests and tourists as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches. The hotel, which was slated to open in October 2001 but officially opened its doors on January 27, 2002, stands to many as a symbol of the revival of lower Manhattan.
"Initially, when we first were built we had unobstructed views of the World Trade Center site and people would sit and watch the rebuilding of the area from the Club level," said Nicole La Valette, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park. Over the years, more residential buildings were built, obstructing the views, which La Valette says was actually a good thing. "It was a sign of the revival."
Today, guests who once requested views of Ground Zero from their hotel room are now offered an equally dramatic view. From the hotel you can see clear to the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of hope and resilience.
"There's a lot more residents and tourists in the area now, and the activity in downtown is positive for our employees and our guests," said La Valette. "The redone parks and new restaurants, and talk about new retail stores -- people feel like they are in a good place right now. Despite everyone saying it's going to be a ghost town, it's hasn't proven to be."
The soon-to-be open Conrad New York, located at 102 North End Avenue, will be the hotel group's first property in New York, and Lower Manhattan was an easy choice, said Robert Rechtermann, General Manager of the Conrad New York. "The neighborhood has so many new restaurants, shops and businesses opening that it's becoming a destination in and of itself." To add to the mix, the new Conrad will feature high-design "green roof", complete with a bar, a garden and river views.
It's true that staying in the Financial District doesn't have the same flashy appeal as Times Square or elegance of the Upper West Side, but Lower Manhattan nevertheless embodies the best of New York's effortless attitude, and it's got a serious cool-factor. Nowhere else in Manhattan can you get a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty in one spot or walk Wall Street and end your day bar-side in Tribeca. Sure, you'll have to navigate through construction cranes and orange cones, and the sound of jackhammers will likely provide the background music to your leisurely stroll through Battery Park, but in a way it's almost inspiring -- the construction you're walking through, the hotel you're staying in, or the restaurant you're ordering from form pieces of history that tell a riveting story about a powerful past that made way for positive future.
The 497-room New York Marriott Downtown was closed in 2001 and reopened in January 2002 as one of Lower Manhattan's symbols of revival. The hotel, at 85 West Street, is five blocks from Wall Street, and only a short walk to the World Trade Center site. In the lobby of the hotel is the flag that originally hung at the Marriott New York World Trade Center Hotel. Photo courtesy New York Marriott Downtown
Located at 55 Church St, the Millenium Hilton is directly across the street from Ground Zero and one of the larger hotels in the area with 569 units, including 471 guest rooms and 98 suites. Half a mile from the hotel is Wall Street and the South Street Seaport. Photo courtesy The Millenium Hilton
The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park was due to open in early October 2001, but officially opened for business in January 2002. Located at 2 West Street, the awe-inspiring views of the Statue of Liberty from guest rooms and public spaces are what make this hotel famous. Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park sits at the edge of the Financial District and is a five-minute walk from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton Battery Park
Gild Hall, A Thompson Hotel, sits on the east side of Lower Manhattan at 15 Gold St., close to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and only four blocks from Wall Street. The South Street Seaport is five blocks from Gild Hall, and the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal is a 15-minute walk in Battery Park. Photo courtesy Gild Hall, A Thompson Hotel
Opened in 2010, the Hyatt Andaz Wall Street was one of the first new hotels to open on Wall Street (75 Wall St.), making it convenient for financial types to come and go. The New York Stock Exchange is a four-minute walk from the hotel. Andaz is famous for its high-tech check-in process and "social" lobby space, and the hotel's Lounge serves as a place to hold impromptu meetings or enjoy drinks after work. Photo courtesy Hyatt Andaz Wall Street
Wall Street Inn, located at 9 S William Street, is the former Lehman Brothers annex and two blocks from Wall Street. A short 5-minute walk in one direction at you're at the site of Ground Zero; the other direction and you're at the South Street Seaport. Photo courtesy PhillipC, Flickr
The World Center Hotel opened in 2010 across the street from the site of Ground Zero, boasting views of the construction and the rising One World Trade Center from the hotel's guest rooms. Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange are within a 10-minute walk of the hotel. "The revitalization of Lower Manhattan has only just begun, and we are very proud to be among the new businesses opening their doors to Lower Manhattan visitors," said Jane Mackie, spokeswoman at World Center Hotel. "The development of the World Center Hotel was conceived more than 10 years ago, prior to September 11, 2001 and the opening of our hotel reinforced our commitment to the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan." This view is of the construction at the Memorial site, as seen from one of the hotel's room terraces. Photo courtesy World Center Hotel
The DoubleTree Financial District, located at 8 Stone St, is a five-minute walk from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, and only three minutes to Battery Park. Photo courtesy DoubleTree by Hilton - Financial District
The Eurostars Wall Street is a small boutique hotel located one block from Wall Street and five blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. A short walk will lead you to the World Trade Center site. The hotel, like many in the area, is currently undergoing construction but is open for business. Photo courtesy Hotel Eurostars Wall Street
The Hampton Inn Seaport/Financial District is situated perfectly between the Brooklyn Bridge and the South Street Seaport, allowing guests the leisure of New York or the business of Wall Street within steps from its front doors. Photo courtesy Hampton Inn, Financial District
Holiday Inn New York City - Wall Street, located at 51 Nassau St., is only blocks from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. City Hall and the World Trade Center site are within a 10-minute walk. If you want a different view, there's also the Holiday Inn Express New York - Wall Street, located two blocks from the East River in Lower Manhattan's Financial District and just a five-minute walk from the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy Holiday Inn New York City - Wall Street
The Lower Manhattan hotels to date include: Millenium Hilton; Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel, Holiday Inn Wall Street and Holiday Inn Express, Hyatt Andaz Wall Street, Eurostars Wall Street, Ritz Carlton Battery Park, Hampton Inn Financial District, W New York Downtown, Club Quarters- Wall Street & World Trade Center, The Wall Street Inn, New York Marriott Downtown, World Center Hotel, Doubletree by Hilton -Financial District, and the Cosmopolitan. The Conrad New York will open later this year.
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