Trinity Real Estate’s Carl Weisbrod Reflects on Revitalizing Urban Areas

Carl Weisbrod’s office at One Hudson Square is emblematic of the changes Trinity Real Estate is bringing to Hudson Square—a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan nestled between SoHo, Tribeca, and the West Village. A modern office space with advanced technological amenities, the building was actually designed in 1930 to accommodate printing companies. Much like the building, Mr. Weisbrod, as President of Trinity Real Estate—the real estate development arm of Trinity Church, one of the largest landowners in Manhattan by way of a 1705 gift from Queen Anne of England—seeks to convert an area historically the domain of traditional publishers and printers, into a mixed-use neighborhood catering to architecture, advertising, new media and other creative industries.

Not just a lawyer. Mr.Weisbrod grew up in New York City, and lived here all his life but for his years as an undergraduate at Cornell University. After graduating from New York University Law School, he pursued a career in urban affairs because “most lawyers don’t want to be just lawyers.” Mr. Weisbrod is by no means “just a lawyer,” with a distinguished resume that includes leadership positions at such places as the New York City Planning Commission, 42nd Street Development Project, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and Alliance for Downtown New York.

In addition to his duties at Trinity Real Estate, Mr.Weisbrod is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and is still active with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Convention Center Development Corporation. While most people would crumble under the weight of all this responsibility, the friendly and approachable Mr.Weisbrod happily made time to sit down with CityLand to reflect on his past accomplishments and future challenges.

The Midas Touch. Mr. Weisbrod has a history of breathing new life into underachieving neighborhoods. In the 1970s he led the Koch administration’s effort to clean-up and redevelop Times Square, which was then characterized by high crime and low investment, through the City’s power of eminent domain. Mr. Weisbrod acknowledged differences of opinion regarding the final product, but firmly believes that the Times Square of today is “definitively better” than the older version.

When he joined the Alliance for Downtown New York, Mr. Weisbrod’s target was a one-dimensional area dominated by office towers and office tenants. Through his close working relationship with City officials and Manhattan Community Board 1, he helped transform Lower Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood with 24-hour residents, grocery stores, retail establishments and restaurants. In fact, Mr.Weisbrod pointed out that today Lower Manhattan “has more residents than office tenants.”

Because “this is a city of neighborhoods,” Mr. Weisbrod cautioned that each area should be treated differently, but conceded that certain principles apply across the board. A neighborhood needs “residents to attract retail, businesses, and vitality.” He said that this is the “biggest lesson” in urban affairs from “the last 25 years,” and confirmed by “the immediate example of Lower Manhattan.”

Hudson Where? Trinity Real Estate is uniquely positioned to effect change in Hudson Square. It owns approximately 6 million square feet spread out over 18 buildings in the area. Mr. Weisbrod ruled out seeking change through eminent domain, stating that “that level of government intervention” will not be necessary for Hudson Square to realize its potential.

Hudson Square to realize its potential. Rather, he confirmed Trinity Real Estate’s intention to develop the area “organically” and “with the community.” According to Mr. Weisbrod, Trinity Real Estate found “its sweet spot” with office tenants from creative industries, who have flocked to Hudson Square as of late. He predicted that this particular “class of tenant” will spur developments in the area such as “better retail, more street life, more places to eat.” Citing his experience in Lower Manhattan as well as a recent study from NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, Mr. Weisbrod stated that Business Improvement Districts “increase the quality of life for everybody” and is currently promoting one for Hudson Square. A BID in Hudson Square, Mr.Weisbrod claimed, would address issues ranging from improving Hudson Square’s streetscape “to Citystandard” to “ameliorating the effects of the Holland Tunnel.”

Civic values. Mr. Weisbrod said that he has gained “a great sense of civic life” that has “deeply tied” him to the city “emotionally and politically” through his experiences in both the public and private sector. This bond comes through when he contemplated the City’s future. Citing its economy, raised level of civic discourse, visionary yet practical leadership, he assured CityLand that the City is “well-positioned for great things.” — Sami Y. Naim

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.