By Bendix Anderson
September 15, 2010
After years of struggle and delay, the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan is back on track.
“For the first time since 9/11, we have certainty about what is being built, how much it will cost, when it will be completed, and a concrete plan to get us there. And we are seeing real, tangible progress,” said Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, speaking at a Wednesday morning address to the Association for a Better New York,
More than 2,000 workers now swarm over the World Trade Center site. One World Trade Center has risen 36 stories high with a second tower, 4 World Trade Center, following close behind.
The World Trade Center Memorial is also well underway, and will be finished in time for the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks that brought down the original World Trade Center towers in 2001. Workers have begun to set the giant black granite blocks that will cover the waterfalls of the Memorial and planted the first of more than 400 trees planned for the Memorial Plaza.
What took so long? Ward blames “monumentalism” and the drive to make rebuilding provide an answer to “emotional grieving, heated politics, cultural battles, economic unheaval, and, finally, war,” said Ward.
The discussion – sometimes the fight — avoided “the more prosaic questions about construction feasibility, the amount of office space that could reasonably be absorbed by the market, and whether the budgets and schedules were feasible and realistic to begin with,” said Ward.
Last spring, disagreements about the construction schedule forced development partners the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein into arbitration. Thousands of union workers rallied on the site March 9th to call for a settlement and protest proposals that would have delayed the start of construction of 4 World Trade Center, and pushed back the final completion of work at the site as long as 2030.
Since then, the partners have settled their differences and demand for office space has picked up. This fall, magazine publisher Condé Nast signed a Letter of Intent to lease a million square feet of the 10 million planned for the site. The Durst Organization has also joined the development team, bringing $100 million of the own equity and a commitment “to help construct, lease, and operate the building,” said Ward.
In the new spirit of practical accomplishment, Ward has dropped the name “The Freedom Tower” from One World Trade Center.
“The name ‘Freedom Tower’ loomed over the site, carrying all the symbolism and monumentalism of those early years after the attack, and making it extremely difficult to market to private tenants,” said Ward.
Instead of grand symbolism, Ward is focused on the day-to-day interactions that will take place in the redeveloped site. That includes the memorial “a place of profound tranquility,” said Ward — in addition to places of work, commerce, travel, and recreation, all squeezed onto 16 acres.
“Instead of allowing others to define our relationship with Downtown, as New Yorkers, let us discuss Downtown in our own terms,” said Ward.
The New Schedule:
2011 The World Trade Center Memorial
2012 Greenwich Street, crossing through the site from North to South.
2013 One World Trade Center, an office tower on the Northwest corner of the site. 4 World Trade, an office tower on the Southwest corner of the site 3 World Trade Center, a retail structure of the East side of the site. Parking and screening structure on the South end of the site.
2014 The Calatrava Transit Hub, on the East side of the site.
Unknown 2 World Trade Center, an office tower on the Northeast corner of the site. Performing Arts Center, on the North side of the site.