Freedom Rings Up! First Lease at World Trade Center Site

l freedomtower Freedom Rings Up! First Lease at World Trade Center SiteThe first office lease in the rebuilt World Trade Center is expected to be signed on Thursday, according to officials and others familiar with plans, as the China-based Beijing Vantone Real Estate Company has completed negotiations to take about 190,000 square feet of space in the Freedom Tower.

The Port Authority, which is developing the Freedom Tower, is slated to approve the deal at its Thursday board meeting, allowing the lease to be signed, those familiar with discussions said. Vantone, which signed a letter of intent to take space with the Port Authority in June, plans to create something of a portal for Chinese and American companies doing business with each other—dubbed “China Center”—in the 102-story tower that is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Should the lease indeed be signed, it would put an end to years of flirtations with Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center by Vantone. The firm has nearly had deals at two other downtown locations, Larry Silverstein’s 7 World Trade Center and L&L’s 195 Broadway, both of which fell apart late in the negotiating process.
The deal is for five full floors of the tower and the terms of the deal are said to be similar to what was outlined in June. Those terms called for an approximately 23-year lease with rents that start at around $80 a square foot.

In January, the Port Authority transferred rent incentives once intended for a JPMorgan Chase tower downtown to the Freedom Tower, perhaps a sign that Vantone will benefit from the subsidies, valued at $5 a square foot. The Partnership for New York City has also committed money for the project.

A spokesman for the Port Authority, Stephen Sigmund, said in a statement that the agency is “continuing to work to turn the term sheet into the first signed lease for a private tenant in the building.”

Brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, led by Peter Riguardi, represents Vantone and advises the Port Authority.

Between the federal, city and state governments, more than 2.3 million square feet has been committed at the four-tower World Trade Center complex, though leases have not yet been signed. That leaves more than 7 million square feet completely unaccounted for, including two entire planned buildings, Mr. Silverstein’s Towers 2 and 3, with no prospective tenants. Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority are in discussions on how to adjust his lease and allow for him to build some of his towers amid the recession.

ebrown@observer.com