Louis Medina, a security guard at One World Trade Center, couldn’t control his emotions as he thought about Monday, the first day at work for the skyscraper’s first group of office workers, 175 employees of publishing giant Condé Nast.
“Even 10 years from now, my son will ask me or my daughter will ask me, and I will be like, ‘I was there when the building opened [and] my job was to protect the building,’ ” said Mr. Medina, before succumbing to tears. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to be a part of history even if it is a small part.”
Mr. Medina’s passion represents just one of the layers of meaning surrounding the reintroduction of daily office life on the site where more than 2,700 people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
For many, Monday’s milestone is largely economic, evidence of the continuing reinvigoration of lower Manhattan. And for Condé Nast, the move from Times Square to One World Trade Center symbolizes a corporate pivot toward the digital future for the company that produces the New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair.
And then, of course, there are the more mundane concerns.
“My biggest fears about this are getting all my crap packed in time and the certainty that the first three days in the new building I am accidentally going to take the train here [to the Bryant Park stop],” said Devin Gordon, senior articles editor at GQ, whose team is scheduled to move on Dec. 12.
But mostly he is looking forward to the move. “I am a subscriber to the environment affecting productivity and creativity, and I think we can all use a change of scenery.”
The Condé Nast employees who start work Monday at One World Trade Center, including Chief Executive Chuck Townsend, are the first of some 3,400 of the company’s workers who eventually will occupy 1.2 million square feet in the 104-story tower over the next several months.
When it agreed in 2011 to move into the tower, Condé Nast took on the mantle as a pioneer in lower Manhattan’s revitalization, much as it did for once-scruffy Times Square when it moved there in 1999 from Madison Avenue. The move also tracks broad shifts within the company itself.
“We are moving into a full media company, offering a broad number of platforms, most of them digital platforms, and that process transforms the entire culture,” Mr. Townsend said. “Sometimes the surroundings really contribute to a change in culture.”
...The introduction of regular office life to the building is expected to help speed its office leasing. In May, the owners cut asking rents nearly 10% to $69 a square foot for larger tenants on the tower’s middle floors.
Since then, the building has signed about 100,000 square feet of deals with six tenants, according to Durst, which manages leasing with Cushman & Wakefield Inc. That represents about 3.3% of the tower’s office space. Overall, One World Trade Center’s office space is slightly more than 58% leased.
Prospective tenants still ask questions about the tower’s safety—but far less frequently, said Tara Stacom, executive vice chairman at Cushman, who is leading the firm’s leasing team at One World Trade Center.
“Time has moved on and New Yorkers are so resilient and forward thinking,” Ms. Stacom said. “I don’t get the questions like we used to when we first started out.”