Posted: Feb 23, 2007, 12:06 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Borough of Jersey
Port Authority Approves Construction of Freedom Tower
By David M. Levitt and Alan Mirabella
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg)
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved the construction of the Freedom Tower, removing the last impediment to redevelopment of the World Trade Center site more than five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The agency, which owns the site, estimated the 1,776-foot tower will cost $2.88 billion to build. The Port Authority authorized $492.3 million in contracts for construction and professional services at a meeting in Manhattan today.
The decisions came two days after New York Governor Eliot Spitzer said he supports construction of the building after earlier questioning its economic viability. Development of the Freedom Tower has been delayed by design and security concerns raised by government officials and families of the victims of the attacks, as well as a dispute with New York developer Larry Silverstein.
"Yes, it's full speed ahead and we are committed to the development plan,'' said Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority. "There is still a great deal to be done, no question. There will be challenges. But it's our full expectation that we will build out this site.''
The tower is being designed as the tallest building in North America with 2.6 million square feet of space and a 187- foot-high bomb-resistant concrete base.
Critics of the project include developer Douglas Durst who said in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times yesterday that the tower was hastily designed and construction should be delayed.
`We've Made a Decision'
"There are many opinions,'' said Coscia, responding to Durst. "It would be very surprising to me if there were complete consensus on a project as significant as the Freedom Tower. We've made a decision on how to proceed.''
The Port Authority has so far lined up the U.S. Customs unit of the Department of Homeland Security and New York state's Office of General Services as tenants for the building.
The Customs lease, for about 645,000 square feet of space, should be completed within a year. The General Services lease should be completed by the end of the first quarter, Michael Francois, the authority's chief of real estate and regional development, said today.
Those leases, for about 40 percent of the building, will ``help substantiate its financial strength,'' said Port Authority Director Anthony Shorris, who was appointed last month by Spitzer. ``That's a pretty good anchor.''
Tower May Be Sold
The agencies had earlier agreed to pay about $59 a square foot for the space, according to the office of New York's then- governor, George Pataki.
The Port Authority may sell the Freedom Tower, Coscia said.
"There's a lot of interest in a property like the Freedom Tower,'' Coscia said. "There are a lot of investors out there who are looking for at assets that have value and generate stable income, and we believe the Freedom Tower will be such an asset.''
Interest has come from ``a wide variety of private sector actors,'' Shorris said. He declined to disclose names or the number of inquiries the agency has received.
Governor Spitzer's approval came at a Feb. 20 press conference with New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also gave their support for the project.
Spitzer's predecessor, George Pataki, laid a cornerstone for the tower on July 4, 2004. Less than a year later, the tower had to be completely redesigned after New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the glass base was too close to streets, leaving it vulnerable to a truck bomb.
The authority began installing beams for the tower foundation, which will also serve as a passageway for a new train station planned elsewhere on the 16-acre site, late last year.
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