Architect and developer Joseph Pell Lombardi was one of the first to see the appeal of Wall Street -- he bought 55 Liberty Street in 1978, and converted the building to luxury co-ops in 1980 -- and he still believes the area has plenty of room for growth as a residential neighborhood. "If you converted 1 million square feet of commercial space to residential space, you would still only have converted a fraction of the square feet of space that exists on Wall Street," he says. As long as people like Patty Rockmore, co-owner of advertising firm Patty & Toshi, keep moving in, developers will create space for them. Rockmore sold her Park Avenue co-op to renovate cottages in Southampton, then changed her mind and returned to the city in January. "I was on the board of my building, and I loved it -- loved it," she says. Now Rockmore pays $1,800 a month for a large studio at 100 John Street that "looks like a Prada showroom," with frosted-glass panels to offset her bedroom and a view of the Manhattan Bridge. "People like it better than my Park Avenue co-op," she says. "It's like a new beginning."
IDENTITY CRISIS: During the recessionary periods that occurred in the seventies and the nineties, developers took advantage of low prices and tax incentives to convert millions of square feet of commercial space to residential housing. With each economic revival, however, prices went up and development stopped. The residential market was just beginning to pick up again before September 11. Now all eyes are on the site of the former World Trade Center, which will determine the next chapter in the Wall Street area's schizophrenic history.
IN THE PIPELINE: In February 2001, the Economic Development Corporation took over 45 Wall Street with plans to build a new stock exchange, and Rockrose Development was instructed to move its tenants out of the building. For the moment, the fate of the exchange hangs in the balance; it may become part of the new construction, or move to a new location altogether.
THE NUMBERS: Typical of the local housing stock is 99 John Street, a converted office building with a doorman, roof deck, and Art Deco murals in the lobby. Large studios with eleven-foot ceilings start at $1,550 a month, one-bedrooms at $1,850, and two-bedrooms at $2,500.