If Larry Silverstein could go back in time, he’d keep all of his Manhattan holdings off the block.
“Every time I’ve sold anything – and I’ve only sold at very high prices – five years later, I’ve thrown my hands up and said, ‘I’ve done a dumb thing,’” the developer said Wednesday, speaking at a Corcoran Sunshine event at the sales office for his latest condo project, 30 Park Place. “I always tell my kids, ‘When I’m no longer here, remember one thing: Don’t sell!’”
The Silverstein Properties head, who’s been in the business for 60 years, said he’s seen cycles come and go, but at the end of the day, Manhattan real estate will stand the test of time.
“I’ve been functioning here for about 60 years and I’ve always been bullish on New York,” he said. “Every once in a while there’s a glitch or a decline – some of those declines are sharper than others and some last longer than others – but, on the balance, if you draw a line through the ups and the downs, you’ll see that the ups are more significant. I’ve been watching this damn thing and it just continues to grow.”
Silverstein’s talk, moderated by The Real Deal’s Katherine Clarke as part of a series of industry discussions dubbed CS Talks, also touched on the mogul’s long-term vision for Lower Manhattan. Silverstein, who inked a lease for the original twin towers just days before they were destroyed, was one of the earliest proponents for rebuilding the towers and spoke to the challenges he faced along the way.
“The greatest challenge was to succeed at a time when there was a sea of adversity out there,” he said. “Government officials are not known for their unity of thought. Everybody had a different agenda. We’ve now lived with five or six governors in the state of New York, seven governors in the state of New Jersey and several mayors. All of that brought a profusion of confusion.”
Silverstein, who is responsible for rebuilding a large swath of the World Trade Center, including 7 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center, said he’s even faced adversity at home — from his wife Klara, who initially had reservations about his purchase of the site for 30 Park Place, now under construction and soon to be the home of luxury condos and a Four Seasons hotel.
“My wife was giving me hell one day … She said, ‘You have such a concentration of projects around the World Trade Center. You need to diversify.’ So, obviously when the opportunity came to buy a site just one block north of the World Trade Center, I took it.”
His wife may not have thought it his wisest purchase, but Larry has had the last laugh. The project, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, is now 70 percent sold, Silverstein said.
The developer also sung the praises of the controversial new Santiago Calatrava-designed new transit hub at the trade center site, renowned as the most expensive train station ever built. The Oculus reportedly cost close to $4 billion, almost twice the estimate when plans were first unveiled in 2004. He dismissed criticisms of the cost marring the legacy of the project.
“It’s the most magnificent building in America as a transportation terminal,” Silverstein said. “The beauty of that building is unprecedented. The quantity of white marble is unbelievable. Yes, it’s probably the most expensive building in the world on price per square foot basis, but such is life. You’ll love it.”