Stand still for a few moments around lunchtime at almost any lower Manhattan corner and the world around you moves at a faster clip than almost any place in the United States. People sit and eat. Others hurry to appointments. Bikes whiz by. You can hear banging from a nearby construction project.
Some people head to peaceful locations like Pier 15 or Elevated Acre, a park on a building plateau overlooking the helipad on the East River. Lines for the Downtown Connection, the area’s free shuttle, grow in the afternoon.
The neighborhood numbers are astounding. Eleven years after Sept. 11, lower Manhattan attracts nearly 10 million tourists per year. According to the Downtown Alliance, the local Business Improvement District largely responsible for spearheading the area’s growth, there are around 309,800 weekday workers. More than 57,000 residents live in 27,722 units spread across 318 residential buildings.
The average income of a family living in lower Manhattan is $188,000. There were six hotels on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, there are 18, with five under construction. Despite losing as much office space as exists in downtown Atlanta on Sept. 11, the area is the fourth largest central business district in the country.
The neighborhood comeback is complete. But more than that, lower Manhattan, defined as the area below Chambers St. from the East to the Hudson Rivers, has become a global model for mixed-use neighborhood success.
More than 30% of people who live in lower Manhattan walk to work. Over 87% say they live in the area for quality of life; 84% say it’s the quality of their apartment. Residential buildings are full of gyms, rooftop lounges and pools. The Woolworth Building will soon house luxury condos on top floors. The former AIG Building at 70 Pine will become a 900-plus rental building. Over 85% of residents have college degrees compared with 39% from the rest of the city.
Calm and tranquil locations bring a sense of peace to the area. Working with the Parks Department, City Planning and corporate entities, the Downtown Alliance and other local organizations have pushed for low-key places to take a break from the surrounding madness. Pier 15 and the East Side Waterfront, both by downtown architecture firm SHoP, provide stylish modern urban rest zones.
The Elevated Acre at 55 Water St. is one of the most important outdoor urban spaces in the country, providing serenity just an elevator ride up in an office building’s public courtyard. Others prefer a quiet bench in Battery Park, facing the Statue of Liberty.
For the children
Parks, safety and convenience bring children. Twenty-three percent of households in the neighborhood have children under 18. The Alliance expects that number to increase with 40% of households without children expecting to have a child in the next three years. Many of them use or will use Imagination Playground, an innovative space designed by architect David Rockwell designed to improve learning through fun. In the two years since it opened, the playground has become an area meeting place for families.
Anticipating—and perhaps hastening—the arrival of major amenities and conveniences in the Financial District, developers are erecting dozens of new residential projects in the neighborhood, most of them trending very high-end. While most newly constructed condos these days include a fitness center and maybe a playroom for children, some of the new developments in the Financial District (or "FiDi," to use local brokers' fondness for contracted names) boast more over-the-top luxuries. Features of the latest generation of residential buildings include rooftop cabanas, Zen-influenced in-house spas, and libraries with roaring fireplaces—not to mention iconic Wall Street addresses and surroundings rich with history and prestige.