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Towers around City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.
Photograph: By dbox / Courtesy of The Skyscraper Museum | Towers around City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.

A new exhibit at The Skyscraper Museum explores how Lower Manhattan has changed since 9/11

The neighborhood's population has more than doubled.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

How has Downtown changed since the September 11 terror attacks?

A new exhibit at The Skyscraper Museums seeks to answer that question. In the past two decades, the museum found, Lower Manhattan’s residential population has more than doubled as new apartment buildings sprung up and old office buildings transformed into housing.

Residential Rising: Lower Manhattan since 9/11,” the museum’s newest exhibition, analyzes and visualizes this change. The new housing is “mostly high-end and definitively high-rise,” the museum said, adding that the neighborhood grew without displacing longtime residents. 

While the exhibit features stunningly detailed scale models of contemporary buildings, it doesn’t forget the neighborhood’s past. For context, museum director and curator Carol Willis explained, the 1987 stock market crash forced Lower Manhattan to empty out. By the early 1990s, offices faced significant vacancy rates, and the neighborhood cleared out after the workday. Before 2001, the workday population was 400,000 people, with the residential population at just 40,000, Willis said. Today, 83,000 people call the neighborhood home. 

Scale models of skyscrapers.
Photograph: Courtesy of The Skyscraper Museum | A peek at the museum's newest exhibit.

The call to reinvent Manhattan began in the mid-'90s with plenty of government incentives, but 9/11, of course, changed everything. 

Willis calls the doubling of the neighborhood’s population “extraordinary,” especially considering the trauma the area suffered and the logistical challenges of having to navigate around the huge inaccessible area of Ground Zero. The exhibit captures those broader changes, along with offering a chance to geek out over the neighborhood’s spectacular skyscrapers. 

The gallery pays homage to those tall wonders by featuring nine new projects and three conversions. For example, you can gawk at intricate models of buildings such as 56 Leonard (the Jenga Building), the towering 125 Greenwich Street, and the redeveloped One Wall Street. There’s no signature style for buildings in Lower Manhattan, Willis said, with each one bringing its own eclectic style. 

The museum also documents the original story of the World Trade Center in a permanent exhibition.

See “Residential Rising: Lower Manhattan since 9/11” at The Skyscraper Museum (39 Battery Place, Battery Park City) before the show ends in January 2023. Admission is free, but timed tickets are required

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