A Celebration of Rebirth in Lower Manhattan

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In the years following the September 11th attack in New York, a visit to the site of the former World Trade Center became a high priority for many. Planners with events held in midtown were used to attendees making their way to downtown on a free afternoon to pay their respects and remember the tremendous devastation that occurred that day.

Now as the country gets ready to observe the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Lower Manhattan has come roaring back, not only as a place to conduct business, dine and shop, but as a destination for luxury meetings and events. None of the reversal in fortune lessens the pain of the losses incurred in 2001, but the turnaround speaks to New York’s ability to recover and move forward.

Heading the list of new luxury hotels is the 287-room Beekman, which opened in August and the 189-room Four Seasons New York Downtown, opening in September. The Beekman is an adaptive reuse of an 1890s-era landmark former office building, featuring a nine-story atrium filled with classic ironwork.

The Four Seasons (Manhattan’s second) is a newly constructed, 80-story, mixed-use tower designed by award-winning architect Robert A.M. Stern. The hotel features guest rooms on the building’s first 24 floors topped by 157 condominium residences. Both The Beekman and the Four Seasons offer a range of high-end meeting and event spaces as well as celebrity chef-helmed restaurants.

Hotels aside, a number of attractions now dot the re-emerging neighborhood, some more sobering then others. Crowds have been drawn to the National September 11th Memorial & Museum. Popular as well has been the observation deck at One World Trade Center, offering panoramic views of the Hudson River and surroundings from the top floor of the 1,776 ft. high building.

Meanwhile, a short walk away from the World Trade Center site is the revived, history-friendly South Street Seaport on the East River. A short ferry ride away (departing from the tip of Battery Park) is Liberty Island, home of the recently restored Statue of Liberty and the recently expanded museum at Ellis Island, the gateway through which millions of immigrants entered the U.S. at the turn of the last century. Planners booking a Lower Manhattan meeting in the shadow of the World Trade Center in the next year or so will want to keep these seven suggestions in mind:

  • Try to strike a balance between the positive message of the revitalized neighborhood and the sad anniversary being remembered.
  • At the same time, be sure to retain a respectful tone when it comes to anything 9/11-related, including the marketing of tickets to venues like the memorial and museum.
  • For group events, check out the availability of group rates. Book early as these venues remain popular.
  • For attendees’ free day activities, communicate options, times and prices and then let attendees take it from there. It’s not your job to be ticket broker.
  • When necessary, work with the hotel concierge and/or conference services manager, given their existing relationships with vendors.
  • Regardless of how compelling these local sites and activities may be, attendees are in New York to participate in the meeting you’ve arranged and are expected to be present accordingly.
  • If appropriate given the audience, consider bringing in an expert (historian, city planner, psychologist, journalist) to appear on the conference program on some aspect of rebuilding post-9/11.

Photo credits:  tribute lights courtesy of NYC&Co./Schaer; daytime skyline courtesy of NYC&Co/Kate Glicksberg.

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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