The chance to put a restaurant at the top of the Freedom Tower seems like a peerless opportunity all right — at least, that’s what the Port Authority hoped when it invited restaurateurs to propose plans for the new space, set to open in 2013, earlier this week. But we only know one person who has created a major restaurant atop the city’s highest skyscraper: Michael Whiteman, who with his partner Joe Baum created Windows on the World (which the Freedom Tower’s restaurant will be the de facto replacement for). Whiteman is something of an expert on skyscraper restaurants: He also created the modern version of the Rainbow Room, along with top-floor restaurants in Singapore and Taipei. We asked him how hard it was going to be for whoever won the contract.
“It could cost about $30 million to build,” Whiteman says, “or maybe more. It’s a big gulp in any case. But anybody who went after it would be expecting a very big tenant allowance [a kind of operating subsidy] from the Port Authority.” Whiteman says that while the location makes the build-out more timely and expensive, it doesn’t really present any special challenges: “It’s like swimming — once you start it doesn’t matter how deep the water is beneath you.” The restaurant will succeed, he thinks, as long as its operator keeps his eyes on the prize culinarily. “The place should function on its own even if the building were fogged in and you could see nothing on the outside. Which happened quite often at Windows on the World.” Whiteman thinks the bigger financial challenge might be the insurance, which could be prohibitively high. The reasons for that are fairly obvious — though we doubt you’ll be reading much about that in 2013’s neuro-dispatches.
Developer Sought for Restaurant in Freedom Tower [NYT]