Up to Matt

tales 13 Up to MattOn Sept. 11, Matthew Moinian pulled up outside his sales office on West Street, hopped out of his chauffered Mercedes and was promptly accosted by police.

The sidewalk was off-limits, he was blunty informed, to keep the path clear for presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, who were in town to mark the seventh anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the nearby World Trade Center.

Little did the cops realize, however, they had another powerful VIP on their hands.

“Hey,” said the fresh-faced, dapper-dressed Mr. Moinian, pointing to his family firm’s new hotel nearby, “I own that building.

On Sept. 11, Matthew Moinian pulled up outside his sales office on West Street, hopped out of his chauffered Mercedes and was promptly accosted by police.

The sidewalk was off-limits, he was blunty informed, to keep the path clear for presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, who were in town to mark the seventh anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the nearby World Trade Center.

Little did the cops realize, however, they had another powerful VIP on their hands.

“Hey,” said the fresh-faced, dapper-dressed Mr. Moinian, pointing to his family firm’s new hotel nearby, “I own that building.”

At just 23, the boyish real estate magnate doesn’t always command the same level of respect as his father, developer Joseph Moinian—which probably explains why he is so reluctant to mention his age in front of elder tycoons.

Seven years ago, he was just another high-school junior, sitting in class, when the principal interrupted with an important announcement: Two hijacked planes had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

Moments later, the intercom erupted again: “Matthew Moinian, please come to the office.”

He was understandably fearful. “You know, besides Larry Silverstein, we’re the largest landowners downtown,” he said of the family business, the Moinian Group, which oversees a portfolio spanning some 20 million square feet of New York office and residential properties. “My dad is down here all the time.”

Papa Moinian was just fine, it turned out; his mother, Nazee Moinian, was simply the first parent to come pick up her kid that fateful day.

Back then, it might have been impossible to imagine, given the grim economic impact on downtown real estate, that anyone would be so bold or foolish to build a soaring hotel tower right around the corner from ground zero.

Yet, in fact, the neighborhood is now teeming with construction, including a number of hotels. And the young Mr. Moinian is in charge of the most massive project of them all, the forthcoming 58-story, Gwathmey Siegel-designed W Downtown Hotel & Residences, now rising at 24 floors (and counting) at 123 Washington Street.

“I live, breathe, eat and sleep this hotel,” Mr. Moinian told The Observer last week during an interview and a tour of the site, scheduled for completion in late 2009. “Every aspect about it is ingrained in my head. There are so many details. There’s so much to do. You can’t help but be all consumed.”

He is perhaps the perfect point man for the project, being a bona fide member of his own target demographic: young, hip and filthy rich.

Some units in the part-transient, part-residential building are priced around $2,000 per square foot—an ideally ostentatious investment for blossoming boldface bankers in search of a quick commute and 24-hour room service. Or well-heeled heirs with an eye for high design.

“I didn’t want it to be just another great W hotel—I wanted it to be above and beyond,” said Mr. Moinian, who enlisted the innovative German outfit Graft to add some distinctive touches to the premises, including wavy-shaped light fixtures called “Lamellae,” which previously never existed, he added.

And, talk about taking ownership: Mr. Moinian is keeping the entire 56th floor all to himself. “It’s going to be the ultimate bachelor pad,” he said.