Depending on the time of day, this mid-block, through-block covered pedestrian space connecting Wall and Pine Streets between William and Pearl Streets assumes different personalities. At morning and late afternoon rush hours, it is a crowded corridor filled with employees going to and from the Wall Street subway station escalator and stairs located at the northwest corner. At lunch hour, it is packed with individuals sitting at the numerous metal movable tables and chairs while enjoying the wares of the various food outlets lining the eastern edge. During the rest of the day, the space enjoys a relative calm, used but never overused, by people ranging from apparently homeless to bike messenger to employee on a break. As one of only two fully enclosed, amenity-rich indoor spaces in lower Manhattan — the other is 180 Maiden Lane — it is virtually of axiomatic benefit to the neighborhood.
After plying the narrow streets of downtown’s financial district, the visitor is surprised by the space’s openness. Its substantial height, width, and length make it one of the largest single floors belonging to any covered pedestrian space in the city. The designer’s heavy reliance on white materials and decorative elements, such as white marble brick-shaped tiles on stand-alone and attached columns, white lattice covering walls and ceiling, and even bit-sized mirrors reflecting more white, enhances the sense of openness. At the same time, the wan color and a lighting scheme that drains life from everything it touches casts something of an antiseptic pall. Beneficial as the space may be, it is not Wall Street’s intimate public living room. If anything, the space has overtones of a New York City white-tiled subway station or a stage set for an English garden.
The covered pedestrian space divides itself into three usable areas. The middle portion is devoted strictly to circulation, defined by columns on either side that rise from the patterned granite floor and unfurl flowerlike toward the ceiling. Generously supplied with white movable tables and chairs, sittable ledges at the base of the columns, and benches attached to the wall, the western portion receives its greatest use from people staying for more than a brief moment. Set against the western wall are large primeval-looking stone sculptures that weep water into a base filled with plants.
At the opposite end of the space are more white tables and chairs mostly used by patrons of the various food vendors. Here, the sense of turnover is palpable as people scarf down breakfast, lunch, or coffee before moving to their next engagement. Non-food retail stores are located closer to Wall Street. At the northeast corner of the covered pedestrian space is an entrance to the office building, as well as access to the public restrooms. Asking building management for directions to the public restrooms does not always yield a helpful response, as recent site visits have revealed, so it may be necessary to ask again, with the air of someone who knows that the restrooms exist and who displays an urgency to use them.
A long arcade along the entire building frontage on Wall Street and a shorter stretch of arcade on Pine Street create covered entry portals to the covered pedestrian space.