After the Sept. 11 attacks, there were grim questions about the future of the shaken, dust-covered neighborhoods around the World Trade Center. Would residents flee uptown or to the suburbs? Would the epic job of rebuilding lower Manhattan be too much to bear? Who would want to live so close to a place associated with such horror?
As it turns out, plenty of folks.
Census figures released last week show that the number of people living near ground zero has swelled by about 23,000 since 2000, making it one of the fastest-growing places in the city.
Virginia Lam, a publicist and former City Hall operative who moved into a newly converted residential building on Wall Street in 2006, said the site is a source of inspiration, rather than fear or gloom.
"It's pretty amazing," she said of the new towers rising from the 16-acre hole created by the attacks.
About 45,750 people now live in the part of Manhattan south of Chambers Street, which encompasses ground zero. That is more than twice as many as there were during the last census.
There was also significant growth a little farther uptown. In all, 82,137 people were counted as living south of Canal Street, 15 blocks north of the trade center. That is an increase of 43 percent from 2000 in an area that includes the Financial District, Battery Park City, a section of tenement-packed Chinatown and the celebrity-studded streets of TriBeCa, which is short for "Triangle Below Canal."
The change around Wall Street has been especially remarkable given the area's history as a financial hub, rather than a residential district.
One by one, bank headquarters have moved elsewhere, and millions of square feet of office space have been converted to homes -- a change spurred partly by government incentives intended to help revive downtown after Sept. 11.
Grocery stores have opened. Three new schools have opened up in four years. Briefcase-carrying stockbrokers now share sidewalk space with kids in strollers.
The area isn't finished growing, either. Near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, work was recently completed on the tallest apartment tower in the Western Hemisphere, a 76-story, 900-unit skyscraper designed by the architect Frank Gehry.
Across much of the area, there are few remaining signs of the damage done by the terror attacks. Even the tumult of construction at the trade center site barely interrupts the daily flow of residents, office workers and tourists through the neighborhood.
"People should be proud of the fact that we rebuilt this neighborhood," said Julie Menin, head of the local community board. New Yorkers could have abandoned their experiment in downtown living after 9/1 1, but it didn't happen. "I think just the opposite happened. It proved our resilience."