NYC's new World Trade Center dominates the skyline with its sleek exterior - but I took a tour of the inside and it didn't look like the bland, traditional office building I was expecting at all
Katie Warren/Business Insider
- New York City's new One World Trade Center cost $4 billion and took eight years to build.
- I took a tour to see what the inside looks like four years after the first tenants moved in.
- In addition to 78 floors of office spaces with jaw-dropping views, the building has an employee amenities floor with a café, game room with video game consoles and shuffleboard and billiards tables.
- About 8,000 people work in the building, mainly for media and tech companies.
New York City's new One World Trade Center, nicknamed the "Freedom Tower," cost $4 billion and took eight years to build between the start of construction in 2006 and the first tenants moving in 2014.
Four years after opening its doors to the first tenants, about 8,000 people now work in the building for companies that include Condé Nast, streaming service DAZN, and workout app Aaptiv.
The building is 1,776 feet and 104 stories tall, with office space on floors 20 through 98. It includes 3 million square feet of rentable office space, according to the World Trade Center's official website.
I found the inside to be much more casual than I expected - and my tour guide, Jordan Barowitz, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Durst Organization, which oversees leasing in the building, backed up this observation.
He told me when they first started marketing the building's office spaces in 2010, they thought it would be a "formal office building" with lots of "guys in suits." Instead, they got mainly smaller companies in media, technology, and other creative industries. While I certainly noticed some guys in suits, the majority of employees I saw were dressed casually, many with beards and sneakers.
Here's what the inside of One World Trade Center looks like, four years after the first tenants moved in.
I arrived for my tour of One World Trade Center on a sunny but chilly morning toward the end of October, ready to meet Jordan Barowitz, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Durst Organization, which oversees leasing in the building.
The building is only a few minutes from my office so I walked there, but One World Trade Center is connected underground to the Oculus, a shopping center and transport hub.
Through the Oculus, you can access 12 subway lines and get to Jersey City, New Jersey, on the PATH train in about 13 minutes.
The area around One World Trade Center features several large, public art installations.
I appreciated the color they added to a neighborhood crowded with gray skyscrapers.
There's still a lot of construction going on in the area, though. A performing arts center is being built right next to One World Trade Center.
They're also still finishing up the East Entrance of One World Trade Center. Barowitz told me that will eventually be the main entrance.
I came in through the north entrance on Vesey Street, which is reserved for employees of the building and their guests.
Visitors going up to the One World Observatory at the top of the building have a separate entrance on the west side.
The observatory, which opened in May 2015, is on the 102nd floor and tickets cost between $34 and $54.
Another employee entrance is on the south side, facing the 9/11 Memorial.
The lobby is light-filled and has 55-foot ceilings.
Guests must check in at a desk in the lobby ...
... but those who have employee badges can swipe right in through the turnstiles.
One of my first thoughts upon entering the building was that many people were dressed quite casually. Barowitz told me this is because there are many technology, media, and creative firms in the building.
So while I saw some people who resembled the "businessman in a suit" stereotype, I also saw many in jeans and sneakers.
One World Trade Center has 78 floors of office space. Barowitz took me up to the 65th floor, called One World Commons. It's a 25,000-square-foot amenity space for the building's employees.
I was blown away by the views of the city — and I couldn't believe there were still 30 floors of offices above me.
The amenities floor includes an employee café.
Employees can buy espresso drinks and pastries ...
... or just hang out and work on their laptops.
Tenants in the building wanted a space where they could interact with each other, Barowitz told me.
"People like to be able to get up from their desks and move into a different space that's maybe a little less formal, where maybe it's quieter, maybe it's more active," he said. "It just needs to be different."
We walked through the café to the game room, which includes a TV and video gaming consoles ...
... a shuffleboard table ...
... and a billiards table.
Not many people were taking advantage of this gorgeous part of the space when I was there — but it was early in the morning. I imagine it gets busier around lunchtime and in the afternoon.
The views of the Brooklyn Bridge from this room were incredible.
Tenants in the building can rent out these spaces for events.
In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that One World Trade Center was "struggling to fill office space," with about 20% of it sitting empty four years after opening.
But during my tour in October, Barowitz told me that number was closer to 83% — and that's totally normal for a building of its size. The goal is to be at about 92-93% occupancy by the end of 2019.
"It's a lot of space," Barowitz said. "It's 3.1 million square feet, so it takes a little time to rent this much space — but we've done 2.6 million square feet."
Current tenants can also rent the vacant offices for events. Barowitz pointed out the expansive floor space, lack of disrupting columns, and abundance of natural light. And again, the unbeatable views.
"You get used to it," Barowitz said. "But they never get old."
Barowitz said One World Trade Center was designed for efficiency, from the 54 high-speed passenger elevators to the configuration of the office space.
Older buildings often have lower ceilings, more columns, and awkward niches and corners, he said, but, "here, the space is very modular so that it's clear and open and you can easily fit a whole range of different types of office layouts into it."
The floor-to-ceiling windows would definitely be a draw for me as an employee. I've been to the top of the Empire State Building, but in my opinion, these views beat that one by far.
The only occupied office space I was able to visit was that belonging to the Durst Organization, where Barowitz works. Durst's main office is near Times Square.
I was surprised they decided against an open floor plan to take advantage of the building's coveted views and natural light.
So while the One World Trade Center might give off the vibe of a formal, traditional office building from the outside ...
... the inside left me pleasantly surprised, with details that made the huge space seem personalized and almost cozy.
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