Developers assess impact of 9-11

November 01, 2001 |

The attack against the United States Sept. 11 did not deter most members of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) from attending their annual fall conference in Boston last month. The conference drew nearly 4,000, enough to fill the Hynes Convention Center.

Among the convention speakers was former New York senator and urban planning legend Daniel Patrick Moynihan, recipient of the $100,000 annual ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionary Urban Development. Moynihan urged developers to stand pat against the advances of terrorists. "This is a moment not to be intimidated. The only way they (terrorists) can win is if we change the way we live, and a lot of us live in cities. What we built once, we can build again or differently depending on what we do best. These acts won't change our civilization," he said.

In an interview with Paul Goldberger, architectural critic for The New Yorker, the urban affairs adviser to four presidents, pointed out that a building need not be 200 stories to be significant. "No matter how tall a building we put up, they will put up a taller building in Shanghai," he commented, explaining that the bigger the building, the more fragile it becomes.

Heralding Battery Park City in New York City as an exemplary development, he said, "It does not have to be 200 stories high to be significant."

Sept. 11 was not far from everyone's mind as speaker after speaker referred to 9-11 or, more poignantly, 9-1-1. Stan Ross, a special consultant to Ernst & Young in Los Angeles, stressed the importance of knowing neighbors and paying more attention to others.

Frank Feather, a Canadian author and futurist, said he applauded the natural desire to rebuild but did not think a carbon copy of the World Trade Center complex is likely to emerge. Feather believes the skyscraper era has ended. While the super-tall building focus has moved to Asia, Feather expects to see more mixed-use developments in the United States.

Sept. 11 clearly put the economy in a recession, according to Dale Anne Reiss, global industry leader of real estate, Ernst & Young, New York City. In a panel discussion on "Managing in a Declining Market," John Bucksbaum, CEO of General Growth Properties Inc., Chicago, said while traffic at malls is good, retail spending is decreasing.

Some panelists anticipated that overbuilding in several markets will cause negative growth, as the amount of sublet space on the market is extremely high. The year 2003, however, might be a banner year. Douglas Crocker II, president and CEO, Equity Residential Properties Trust, Chicago, advised developers to delay building until next spring, so that the facilities would open in 2003.

Jack Robertson, partner with architect Cooper, Robertson & Partners in New York City, theorized that there won't be a market for 110-story buildings and doesn't think anything will be built on the World Trade Center site for a long time.

Eugene Kohn, president of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, New York City, said that tall buildings are necessary to density. His architectural firm is constructing the tallest building in the world in Shanghai, with a reinforced concrete services core.

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