EXCLUSIVE: A new exhibit dubbed "Top of the World" commemorates the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by telling the story of the World Trade Center's rebuilding efforts over the past two decades, through the eyes of architects, artists, photographers, reporters and filmmakers.
The exhibit, put together by Silverstein Properties, is now available to view online.
FOX Business headed 80 floors up to the top of 3 World Trade Center for an inside look.
On July 24, 2001, Silverstein Properties Chairman Larry Silverstein purchased the Twin Towers for $3.2 billion and was getting ready to retire at the age of 70 after building a real estate empire from nothing. But just six weeks later, he and the rest of the world watched the 9/11 terror attacks turn the Twin Towers to rubble, killing thousands of innocent people.
From that moment on, Silverstein spend the next two decades of his life rebuilding the World Trade Center and restoring the vibrant Lower Manhattan neighborhood that became Ground Zero.
"[Larry Silverstein] wanted to show the world that as a New Yorker, and as New Yorkers, we could come back and build bigger stronger better than before," Silverstein Properties chief marketing officer Dara McQuillan told FOX Business.
Because the project was a private-public partnership, there were many roadblocks that stood in Silverstein's way, including limited financing and conflicting opinions about what should be built.
"There was a great public debate after 9/11 with respect to what to rebuild … Some people felt the Twin Towers should be built exactly the way they were. Other folks felt that nothing should be built here at all," McQuillan explained. "Larry Silverstein and Mike Bloomberg and others felt that it was important not just to replace the office buildings that had been destroyed on 9/11, but to create a better version of New York."
Twenty years and $20 billion later, there are currently four new World Trade Center buildings and a new train station. In 2022, a performing arts center is slated to open. Remaining work on 2 World Trade Center, an office building, and 5 World Trade Center, a residential building, is expected to be completed over the next five to six years.
Each World Trade Center building is reinforced by a two-foot thick concrete core and steel columns and outfitted with wide emergency staircases and high-standard air circulation and filtration systems.
Prior to 9/11, the World Trade Center's clientele consisted of investment banks, law firms and insurance companies. Today, the World Trade Center's tenants include companies like Moody’s, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Wilmer Hale, BMI, Spotify, Conde Nast, Group M, Diageo, Uber and McKinsey Consulting.
"I think [Larry Silverstein] knew in his heart that if you built state-of-the-art, green, energy efficient office buildings here, even if he had no tenants, that sooner or later companies would move in," McQuillan said. "It took a while, but that’s exactly what happened, and this part of Lower Manhattan has some of the most interesting and diverse companies that you could possibly imagine. And the rest of downtown has emerged over the last 20 years as an incredibly dynamic live-work neighborhood."
Silverstein Properties believes its buildings are fully prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.
"These buildings and this place was designed in a direct response to what happened on 9/11. The buildings are the safest buildings you can be in in the United States and they are also the most protected buildings," McQuillan said. "We have full confidence in our security teams and in the Port Authority and in the NYPD but also in the structure of these buildings. I’ve been working at the World Trade Center for the last 16 years, and I wouldn’t be comfortable anywhere else."
Though many critics argued lower Manhattan would never recover as a financial business district after 9/11, Silverstein's message has remained consistent: never bet against New York.
"New York is one of the most exciting, dynamic, interesting places in the world. It’s where if you have a dream and you’re willing to roll up your sleeves you can do anything and you can achieve anything," McQuillan said. "New York’s got everything and nothing is going to knock this place down. We’re always going to come back. That’s what we did here, that’s what we’ll do after the pandemic, and that’s what we’ll do no matter what happens."