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Downtown Saw Record 9.8 Million Tourists in 2011

By Julie Shapiro | February 15, 2012 6:40am

LOWER MANHATTAN — Downtown's sidewalks are getting crowded.

A record-breaking 9.8 million tourists visited Lower Manhattan in 2011, which is 800,000 more than visited in 2010, the Downtown Alliance announced Wednesday.

Many of the visitors were drawn to the new 9/11 Memorial, which welcomed more than 1 million people between the time it opened on Sept. 11, 2011 and the end of the year.

"Tourism is thriving in Lower Manhattan like never before," Downtown Alliance President Liz Berger said in a statement.

"The secret is out — Lower Manhattan is a destination of choice in the region, nationally and around the world."

In addition to a steady influx of business travelers, Downtown also saw a growing number of leisure travelers and people who attended special events in the neighborhood in 2011, Berger said.

The city ran a major advertising campaign starting last June marketing Lower Manhattan as a destination.

Tourism in Lower Manhattan has grown 40 percent since 2008, when 7 million people visited the neighborhood south of Chambers Street, the Downtown Alliance said.

The city as a whole also saw a jump in tourism last year, with a record-breaking 50.5 million visitors to the five boroughs, a 3.5 percent increase over 2010. Tourists spent about $32 billion in New York City in 2011, according to the city.

Also on Wednesday, the Downtown Alliance announced that Lower Manhattan had a strong year in commercial leasing, with an 80 percent increase in activity compared to 2010.

Among the nearly 5.86 million square feet in leases signed in 2011, the biggest by far was Conde Nast's 1 million-square-foot deal to move its headquarters to 1 World Trade Center.

Other major leases in 2011 include Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's renewal of its office space in the World Financial Center and Oppenheimer Funds' expansion in the World Financial Center, the Downtown Alliance said.

Commercial leasing hasn't been this strong in Lower Manhattan since 2006, when the area saw just over 6.9 million square feet in leases, according to the Alliance.