60 Hudson St.: The Tribeca building once known as Western Union’s headquarters became America’s first carrier hotel in 1987. Across the nation, several Western Union buildings have since become carrier hotels, thanks to their solid structures, pre-wired design, and access to railways.
401 N. Broad St.: One of Philadelphia’s largest buildings, 10 stories high and over 1 million square feet, occupying nearly an entire block, once served as a dealership for the Packard Motor Car Co., which manufactured cars just down the street. Today, the 70-year-old building is the local link for dozens of telecom companies.
There goes the neighborhood?
Not everyone is singing the praises of downtown’s new tenants.
While carrier hotels give formerly unwanted buildings new life, they don’t usually create many jobs or add much to a neighborhood, which can disappoint civic boosters and historic preservationists.
“it’s not an ideal use when the people doing the rehab feel that all the interior features have to be ripped out,” says Catherine Horsey, executive director of Rhode Island’s Providence Preservation Society.
If a city is trying to jump-start a retail neighborhood, a carrier hotel is not going to help, feels Rita Cox, president of Preservation Dallas. At the same time, however, converting an unused building to a new use increases its chance for survival, a point to which Cox concedes. “Historic buildings don’t get saved unless someone has a use for them.”
And if Paris’ Rue Sentier neighborhood is any indication (half of France’s internet start-ups have relocated to the Sentier area to be closer to its carrier hotel), tech companies themselves may be the neighborhood’s next new tenants.