Nosy Neighbor: Why Does 1 World Trade Center Look So Unfinished at Night?

At night, the lights on most of the middle floors of 1 World Trade Center look unfinished—like dangling construction lights as opposed to proper office lighting. Only at the very top and below the observation deck does it look finished. Is that how it’ll look when it’s fully occupied? —J.

According to the World Trade Center website created by Silverstein Properties, 45% of the building’s 3 million square feet of rentable space remains unleased. (It’s not a Silverstein building but Cushman & Wakefield, the company handling the leasing, didn’t respond.) [UPDATE 1/26: A representative from the Durst Organization says 35% is currently unleased.] So the reason that many of the floors on the tower’s top half look unfinished because they are; no one has ever worked in them. Once they’re occupied they’ll undoubtedly resemble the occupied floors, most of which are in the bottom half. The two sections of even lighting at the top are actually on floors that hold mechanicals.

1WTC leasing graphicOn the graphic shown at right, from the official 1 World Trade Center leasing website, the white floors (of which there are 32) are still available; the blue floors (39) are leased, and the gray floors are mechanicals and the like. By floor number:

1-6: Lobby and mechanicals
7-19: These floors don’t technically exist*
20-44: Leased (Condé Nast)
45-49: Available
50-61: Leased
62-84: Available
85: Leased
86-88: Available
89: Leased
90: Available
91-93: Mechanicals
94-99: These floors don’t technically exist*
100-102: One World Observatory
103-104: Mechanicals

*The best explanation I can find is from Skyscraper City forum‘s NewYorker2009: “That’s just the stupid way the Port Authority decided to number it just so it would make everyone think there are over 100 floors. 7-19 are included in the base because the base is almost 20 normal stories. 94-99 are included in the mechanical floors because they are taller in height than the typical office floors.” In other words, 1WTC is the equivalent of 104 floors, but it’s actually 85.

The building’s Wikipedia page breaks down which tenants are where, although its accuracy is anyone’s guess. Here’s a rundown from the Cushman & Wakefield website: “In addition to Condé Nast, the following firms have taken space and are operational in the building: Legends Hospitality, LLC; Incandescent Technologies, which provides information management consulting services to financial institutions; independent asset manager C12 Capital Management; global executive office space provider Servcorp; telecommunications consulting firm Symphony Communications; WTC retail developer Westfield America, global digital gaming company High 5 Games, and The Durst Organization’s downtown office. Other tenants include: China Center New York LLC, a division of Vantone Industrial Co., Ltd; investment advisor Casablanca Capital; digital media company Tinypass, Inc.; Olam Americas, a division of Olam International a leading agri-business firm; xAd, a technology advertising firm; among several others.”

Thanks to Krystl Hall for the photo!

Got a question? Email it to or call/text 917-209-6473.

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  1. What you’re seeing in those top floors is just the construction lights that they have hanging in there.

    See also:

    The top floors are basically completely unfinished spaces waiting for tenants.

    • Alee, that’s incorrect. Those are mechanical floors, not tenant floors. The lighting is decorative.

      • I am referring to the top vacant floors in the photo I reference — those vacant floors are absolutely not mechanical floors.

  2. Funny, just last night I thought, “I should write to Erik and see what he knows about the lighting in the WTC and why it still looks the way it does.”

    Thanks for the question and answer!

  3. i suspect that the top mechanical floors are fully lit to give the impression of occupancy. it’s a very wasteful example of corporate hypocrisy, as they have been applying for a leed “green” certification. any security concerns certainly could be handled by motion sensors on the lighting

    • The upper mechanical floors are lit for visual appeal, as is the base: they obviously look quite different from the observatory and the occupied office floors.

      It is unclear if 1 WTC is still seeking LEED Gold certification. Sandy destroyed the fuel cells that were to provide 10% of the building’s electricity and that were key to Gold status. Building spokespeople said they expected to make up for this deficit in other ways, but 1 WTC is not now listed as a LEED project. The observatory has received a LEED Platinum rating.

  4. On a related topic, the antenna lights are a disappointment. The lights were installed on the antenna during the summer of 2014. Over the course of a couple of weeknights while walking our dog, my wife and I were amazed at the lights. I guess they were being tested and we watched an amazing light show of bright vibrant colors dancing in many computerized patterns, swirling around the antenna, up and down at various speeds. It was a veritable kaleidoscope. And since those few nights we haven’t seen anything like it since. Instead they just choose static light displays using bland colors, like how it appears in the above picture. The antenna has the capability to dazzle, but yet the management chooses not to. I wonder why?

  5. There are 94 actual floors in 1 WTC, plus the basement levels, not 85 floors as reported here.

  6. Why does the bottom portion of the Freedom Tower seem to resemble original WTC ? Did any of the original WTC remain in tact ?