The Downtown Alliance’s annual real estate review indicates that the year just ended was remarkable in two respects: more people now work in the square mile at the bottom of Manhattan than at any time since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and more people visited here than ever before.
The jobs numbers show that 227,016 private-sector, payroll employees now show up for work in Lower Manhattan. This represents roughly 96 percent of the total count of 236,737 workers who punched in Downtown until 2001, but the new mix spans a broader range of industries than ever before.
Prior to 2001, the 130,000-plus workers in the so-called “FIRE” sector (finance, insurance, and real estate) comprised 55 percent of all jobs in the square mile south of Chambers Street.
Today, there are 51,000 fewer people working in that group, shrinking its share of the total to 35 percent. At the same time, however, the headcount has jumped in sectors like Information (spiking from 774 in 2001 to more than 11,000 today), and “professional, scientific, and technical services” (more than doubling, to 45,000 jobs and 20 percent of the total).
Anybody who has wandered through Lower Manhattan’s streets in the last year will not surprised to learn that the accommodation and food services sector has doubled (to 12,000 jobs), and retail trade has almost quadrupled (to 7,000 jobs). These trends are projected to continue, adding another 40,000 new private-sector jobs in Lower Manhattan in the next three years. At that point, Downtown will employ 11 percent more people than it did in 2001.
On the tourism front, the Alliance report says that 14.2 million people visited Lower Manhattan in 2015, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. This means that the rough equivalent of one out of every 22 people in America (or approximately 0.2 percent of the entire human population of the Earth) visited Downtown in the past 12 months. Residents who have tried to walk along Broadway, between Wall and Vesey Streets on a weekday afternoon will probably view these figures as too conservative.
All these visitors should have no difficulty in finding a place to lay their heads, however. In 2016, more than 3,500 additional rooms, in 21 new hotels, are scheduled to debut, growing the overall hotel capacity in Lower Manhattan by more than 30 percent. And there may be some bargains available: In 2015, Lower Manhattan’s average daily room rate sank by 14 percent (compared with 2014) to $277, which was also 17 percent lower than the City-wide average of $332.
But hotel development is a pale shadow compared to the booming trade in apartments, both rentals and condominiums. While the Alliance report inventories just 239 residential units coming to market in 2015, it anticipates more than 1,500 new dwellings coming to market in 2016 (56 percent of them rental apartments, and 44 percent condominium units), with another 1,000 units in 2017, and 3,800 more in 2018 and beyond.
For anybody looking for a home Downtown, the numbers were encouraging — but only slightly. Lower Manhattan’s median rent of $3,645 softened by a single percentage point from 2014, but was still eight percent higher than the corresponding figure for Manhattan as a whole: $3,361. Anybody seeking to buy an apartment was likely to be as dejected as anybody hoping to sell one was euphoric. The median sale price for a condominium Downtown jumped 18 percent to $1.35 million. The average price for square foot for a condominium in Lower Manhattan climbed 11 percent, compared with 2014, to $1,394. But as prices rose, the total number of sales fell, dropping by about 17 percent.
“The new energy felt in Lower Manhattan is incredible, and we saw this in very real ways over the course of 2015,” says Alliance president Jessica Lappin. “Our economic growth is the most substantial in more than the past decade, and we’ve seen exciting changes in the makeup of the companies that are calling Lower Manhattan home. It was a year full of growth, drive and momentum for the district.”