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Lower Manhattan’s most powerful commercial real estate executive is poised to become the head of Manhattan’s fastest-changing business improvement district.
Brookfield Property Partners Chairman and Brookfield Properties Chief Executive Ric Clark is expected to be named chairman of the Downtown Alliance late Tuesday. He’d succeed Alan Scott, who didn’t seek reelection when his term was up last month.
If the Alliance board vote goes as expected, it will bring to the BID’s helm the honcho who famously oversaw the rescue of Brookfield’s properties that were nearly destroyed on 9/11.
Clark went on to expand his company’s portfolio with the 2006 acquisition of Trizec. Under his watch, the firm turned the stodgy World Financial Center in Battery Park City into eating-and-shopping mecca Brookfield Place.
The WFC towers were rebranded with Vesey and Liberty street addresses. Nonfinancial tenants such as Time Inc., Hudson’s Bay Co. and Jones Day replaced Merrill Lynch and other Wall Street tenants that moved away or shrank.
Clark also witnessed the entire neighborhood overcome near-impossible odds — not only its remarkable office-market resurgence since the 9/11 terrorist attack wiped out 14 million square feet of prime space and left much of the area in chaos.
He marveled at its transformation into a residential neighborhood with shopping and dining options. “Remember, before 9/11,” Clark said, “there was a lot of talk about downtown being ‘24-7’ when it really wasn’t. Now it really is ‘24-7,’ and the Alliance helped to make it that way.
The Downtown Alliance, founded in 1995, has the same core mission as all of the city’s 74 BIDS, nonprofit bodies funded by assessments billed to property owners. A BID typically provides supplemental security and street-cleaning services, promotes public safety and beautification programs, and advocates for businesses.
But they also perform roles both visible and behind the scenes, especially in major districts such as East Midtown, Times Square, and the Grand Central-Bryant Park area.
The Downtown Alliance was founded in 1995 when the gravest threat to the Wall Street area was the inexorable exodus of companies uptown, leaving many older buildings near-empty.
Clark’s been on the Alliance board for just over a year. His likely elevation to the chairmanship can only lend the organization added clout.
Ric ClarkLois Weiss
The unpaid chairman sets the BID’s long-term goals and overall strategy, and also has fiduciary responsibility over its budget. The chair generally leaves day-to-day operations to the organization’s executive director. Today, she is Jessica Lappin, who follows other dynamic directors including Carl Weisbrod and the late Liz Berger.
“I’d be very honored to be chairman and to support Jessica,” Clark said. “She’s a very effective and dynamic advocate for downtown.”
In addition to augmenting New York City’s role in security, sanitation and street quality of life, the Downtown Alliance is known for deep research in every aspect of the area’s commerce and demographics. Its Web site even lists every one of hundreds of residential buildings now existing or planned and exactly how many people live in them.
Over the years, it has played an influential but inconspicuous role in harnessing the area’s complex political and economic currents to help raise some $30 billion in public and private investment.
The area’s transformation since 9/11 and the ravages of Superstorm Sandy is hard to grasp. Its residential population rose from fewer than 23,000 in 2000 to 61,000 today.
Office vacancy is on par with Midtown, roughly 10 percent — but Downtown had the city’s three largest leasing deals signed in the first quarter of 2017.
Those deals include Spotify taking 378,000 square feet at Larry Silverstein’s Four World Trade Center. (Brookfield’s seven area office towers, comprising 13.4 million square feet, are the heart of the company’s global operations and are more than 90 percent leased.)
Clark noted that the “new” downtown is far from finished. Stalled for now are yet-unbuilt Two World Trade Center and the still-adrift Battery Maritime hotel project.
But he’s always believed in the future.
“After 9/11, I told my acquisition guys to buy up anything they could on Nassau and Fulton streets,” Clark said. “We didn’t, though, because we were preoccupied with Brookfield’s global expansion.
“But look at what’s happened since then.”