'Biggest challenge of my life': World Trade Center developer describes rebuilding after 9/11

If you've never heard of Larry Silverstein, the anniversary of 9/11 is a good time to Google him.

The chairman of the Manhattan–based real estate development and investment firm Silverstein Properties Inc. is more widely recognized as the man who bought a 99-year lease for the World Trade Center -- just six weeks before it was destroyed in 2001 during the deadliest attacks on American soil in history.

He is also the man behind the redevelopment of much of the lower Manhattan complex, with Silverstein Properties now owning the office towers at 3, 4, and 7 World Trade Center. The company also owns 2 World Trade Center but the building itself is only built to street level currently. Once they find an anchor tenant, it will undergo construction.

In this June 7, 2018 photo, One World Trade Center towers over its neighbors, including 3 World Trade Center, center, an 80-story office building in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (AP)

In July 2001, Silverstein paid $3.25 billion to lease the property from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, marking it the largest real estate transaction in New York history, according to Silverstein Properties. After the attacks, which destroyed the site's most iconic buildings, the company began working on the office portion of a replacement complex.

“It’s been the biggest challenge of my life, and it’s only taken us 18 years to this point,” Silverstein told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney in Febuary. Leasing at the site is booming, he said.

7 World Trade Center, which opened in May 2006 and cost approximately $1 billion, was the first office tower rebuilt at the site, and its earliest tenant, Moody’s, signed a lease for 750,000 square feet of space. The building now hosts the New York Academy of Sciences, Mansueto Ventures, MSCI and WilmerHale as well.

The tower at 3 World Trade, which cost approximately $2.5 billion, is filling up quickly and recently signed a rental agreement with a law firm, putting occupancy close to 60 percent, according to the Silver Properties. Other tenants signing a lease this year include Casper, Diageo, Better.com and Hudson River Trading.

Its neighbor, 4 World Trade, which cost approximately $2 billion, is 100 percent leased, with Spotify being the anchor tenant, the company said.

The Perelman Performing Arts Center, located at the northeast corner of the site, is under construction and expected to open around the 20th anniversary of the attacks in September 2021.