Living Downtown Making Sacrifices, Making History

Eventually, Manhattan's lower tip could have an economically diverse population, a variety of new retail shops to service them, and more green space. If things go as Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes, that is. Today, the region's weekday streets turn dark and empty shortly after the sun goes down, while on weekends, they teem with thousands of World Trade Center site tourists. Stabilizing and revitalizing Lower Manhattan is a task that is occupying the efforts of a score of government and community organizations; some focusing on attracting and retaining the downtown residential community, others on reestablishing commercial concerns below Houston and Canal Streets.

Down-Home Downtown

While the vast majority of residents displaced 18 months ago have returned to their homes after the post-Sept. 11th evacuation, those who didn't move back have been replaced by new people; many wooed by federal rent and mortgage subsidies.

Defying post 9/11 predictions of a Downtown ghost town, moving downtown is a gamble, but one many seem willing to take. Occupancy rates are back to where they were prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks - about 95 percent, in other words. Exactly how much of a gamble it is to invest or move downtown depends on the faith put in municipal monies coming through, on voters not losing interest in redefining downtown, and businesses - both employers and service providers - moving down there. For some, that's quite a leap, especially in the short term.

Let's Do the Numbers

Besides a few families moving to Battery Park City to take advantage of kid-friendly parks, "It's quiet down there now," says Steven Hauser, a longtime real estate broker with the Corcoran Group's Soho office. Yet, he adds that with the new WTC site and a host of regional improvements, the region could end up a great investment opportunity.

"More so than ever, people will come to see that site," Hauser says. "I think the whole world is going to walk down Greenwich Street, and all those buildings are going to double - if not triple - in value"¦in five to 10 years."

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