Larry Silverstein's feeling upbeat about the future, but we wonder about his grip on reality as it currently stands. Addressing a roomful of construction pros yesterday, the developer promised that the four towers he wants to build at the World Trade Center site will open by 2012 (with retail comprising “big boxes, little boxes, restaurants, and bars”) and told us later that the site would deliver “an urban experience” as walkable as Bleecker Street — “with bollards, of course.” Lovely. But Silverstein also claimed that construction inflation is starting to level off just as his architects are due to start confronting the problem of how to connect four distinct skyscrapers underground. “I was at the General Contractors Association table, and eyebrows went up when he said that,” says Rick Bell, head of the local American Institute of Architects chapter, who has visited the design studio where Silverstein's starchitects are laboring to cost out the towers' underground guts. “I didn't get any consensus on that from contractors or from architects.”
Which city billionaire will get his chubby white hands on the General Motors building? The Observer the other day suggested Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman was in the running to acquire the iconic midtown building, but his people told the Sun today that it wasn't so. (Could he be feeling so diminished by Rupert that he spread the rumor to make himself look cool? Just asking!) Quoting "sources with knowledge of the proposals," the Sun says ground-zero developer Larry Silverstein has made an offer, possibly in partnership with the California State Teachers' Retirement System, of more than $3 billion. That would not only be a record-breaking price for a building in Manhattan, but it would go a long way toward easing current GM-building owner Harry Macklowe's credit woes — he currently owes various lenders around $7 billion. And you thought your credit-card bills were high.
Silverstein Bids Above 3 Billion for GM Building [NYS]
Related: Harry Macklowe Takes It on the Chin
Grimly optimistic developer Larry Silverstein announced today that Capital Grille, the steak chain with a midtown location, has signed a ground-floor lease in his 120 Broadway tower. By luring the D.C.-based operation to join neighbors like Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, Silverstein said, “downtown has become a true beckon for foodies.” (We think he meant beacon, but he said “beckon.”) In the same speech, Silverstein said 86 percent of lower Manhattan’s new businesses have come from outside the financial sector. But since there are already at least six other steakhouses in the neighborhood, can all those new nonfinancial (and presumably, more edamame-inclined) sectors keep them all in business? Silverstein argues that the influx of spendthrift apartment owners around Wall Street will attract more prominent retail, which will make the area a perfect business hub. Hmm. Sounds like Soho to us, a neighborhood that has yet to open, much less support, even one fratty meatery. Alec Appelbaum
Developer Larry Silverstein says his new deal to build a Four Seasons hotel and condo tower downtown will help steer lower Manhattan through the banking industry's crisis, but not everyone in his circle is matching his strut. At a civic-alliance breakfast this morning, Silverstein presented his plan to replace the stately former Moody's headquarters, up Church Street from the Woolworth Building, with a 912-foot stone tower by 2011, creating the city's tallest residential building. The building's design is by neoclassicist Robert A.M. Stern, who worked up 15 Central Park West — which, Silverstein crowed, "broke all records for sales." But this morning, after some lukewarm talk about assisting in the rebirth of lower Manhattan "in a way that I'm comfortable with," Stern betrayed some major butterflies. "I never thought when I was growing up in New York that I'd get to design a building taller than the Woolworth Building," he told us. "That makes for sleepless nights and exciting mornings — I'm like a guy on the Titanic, and I just hope we don't crash." —Alec Appelbaum
City Hall has finally found a way to personally benefit from the fitful rebirth of ground zero. A year ago, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff pledged that the city would rent up to a third of the office space in 4 World Trade Center if no other tenants emerge by early 2009 — a key financing commitment for the three towers that developer Larry Silverstein will soon start building. Yesterday, Doctoroff told us that the city was planning on making good on that pledge — and that relocating city workers into the new Fumihiko Maki–designed skyscraper could benefit everyone, including us taxpayers. "Too many of our workers are in substandard space," Doctoroff said, "and this gives us an opportunity to upgrade some and perhaps sell some buildings that are better used for residential." Because condo demand is outpacing the need for office space down there, this could be a deft, profitable maneuver for the city. At the same time, having a guaranteed tenant would take the heat off Silverstein (and his lenders). Since many city workers are toiling in basements and too small spaces, this could be a hat trick not even Silverstein's architects could've designed. —Alec Appelbaum
• Henry Kravis supposedly gave a big concession when he let the banks place restrictions on the debt offering for the all-important First Data deal, but banks are now complaining the concession is less an olive branch than a fig leaf. [DealBook/NYT]
• Hits on hedge-fund bonuses may not be as bad as we all thought: While they won't set any records, they're still set to grow 1 to 9 percent from last year, and general compensation is still climbing. [Globe & Mail via DealBook/NYT]
• Jordan Belfort, the former broker who swindled investors out of $100 million, didn't discover Jesus in prison, but he did chance upon Tom Wolfe. His new book, The Wolf of Wall Street, looks back on the good times selling bogus stocks while tripping on quaaludes. [NYT]
A mere five years and eight months after September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center's insurers have finally agreed to pay out Larry Silverstein's claims. (And you thought the check from when your apartment was robbed took a long time to arrive!) Governor Spitzer announced a settlement yesterday between Silverstein and the seven insurance companies that tried to stiff him. So after all this wrangling, how huge is the gap between the amount Silverstein originally sought and the compromise sum? A measly $130 million — less than 3 percent of the total $4.6 billion the developer will receive. To think that this was one of the main issues slowing down the reconstruction at ground zero is, in instant retrospect, revolting. But both Silverstein and Spitzer put on gentlemanly performances yesterday; Silverstein offered a "very, very deep thank-you." Another thank-you is probably being muttered by the Port Authority, which will help itself to a chunk of the settlement as a part of its earlier deal with Silverstein. And perhaps by the rest of New York, which might one day actually see something built on the site.
WTC Insure War Is Over [NYP]