With surrounding buildings still gouged and scarred from the collapse of the twin towers, real estate developer Larry Silverstein today unveiled plans for the first new building to be reconstructed at the World Trade Center site.
A $700 million 7 World Trade Center will be a taller and thinner version of its predecessor, which caught fire during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and burned for seven hours before collapsing. Officials praised the new building and declared it is a symbol of hope and rebuilding.
"You can still see the open wounds that are still visible from the attacks 14 months ago," Gov. George Pataki (R) said to a crowd of developers in dark suits and construction workers in hard hats. "And yet amidst that symbol you can also see the strength of New York in what is happening today. A new high-rise building 750 feet tall, rising to change the skyline of New York."
Lawsuits, government approvals and comments from myriad interest groups slowed the rebuilding process for the larger, 16-acre World Trade Center site. But Silverstein has used his insurance payout and status as the building's exclusive owner and developer to move forward on reconstruction. Proposals for the layout of the entire World Trade Center site are expected next month.
The old 7 World Trade Center was a boxy and menacing 47-story tower whose tenants included Salomon Smith Barney Inc., the U.S. Secret Service and the mayor's emergency bunker. The new 7 World Trade Center will be financed by insurance payouts and liberty bonds. It will be 52 stories and include 1.6 million square feet of office space, a 45-foot-high stone and glass lobby, and glassy facade welcoming in light.
"The skin of the building is all about openness," designer David Childs said. "You see the changing clouds and the coloring of the sky actually penetrating in that skin."
In what Childs called "a gift from the developer," Silverstein ordered designers to construct a building that takes up less land, restore parts of Greenwich Street, which the old 7 World Trade Center had covered, and introduce a triangular, tree-lined park in the new space. He estimated that the smaller building will bring in $24 million less in annual income.
"Obviously, we've scaled back a very valuable real estate asset," Silverstein said. "But if it helps to make Lower Manhattan and the Financial District even better than it was before, then it's worth it."
Silverstein is rebuilding in a tougher economic time than before the attacks, but city officials said the reconstruction was an important sign of renewal that was about more than finances.
"The fact that this building is going up now and going up here, right on the site of the old number seven, says that we will not be intimidated by terrorists," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Silverstein touted the new building's safety features, including thicker fireproofing material, wider exit stairs and an internal antenna system to improve communication for emergency responders. The diesel fuel tanks that were in the former 7 World Trade Center will move to beneath the adjacent park.
Some of these improvements resulted directly from the flaws World Trade Center investigators identified from the collapse, including hastily applied fireproofing and communication failures.
In 7 World Trade Center, investigators found that backup generators may have funneled thousands of gallons of fuel into the building while flaming debris flew in from the twin towers.
This fall, Con Edison and its insurers filed a $314.5 million lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for negligence in inspecting and caring for 7 World Trade Center's diesel fuel tanks. The building's collapse destroyed Con Edison's substation.
Silverstein said today that there were no plans to relocate the mayor's emergency bunker back to the building and that it was too early for talks with any prospective tenants. He expects the building to open in late 2005.