Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 111

After years of delays and controversy, it now appears that 1WTC (Freedom Tower) is finally getting its due. In fact, it is one of the hottest properties in the city as major companies are looking at its floor plan to consolidate operations in a modern office building built to the most current specifications.
Believe it or not, Bank of America — having comfortably settled into its grand new tower at 1 Bryant Park — is on the prowl for up to 1 million square feet more of office space in Manhattan.

And that could spell more good news for 1 World Trade Center, the supertall, and suddenly superhot, Ground Zero tower now under construction by the Port Authority.

Condé Nast recently signed a letter of intent with the PA for about 1 million square feet in the 2.6 million square-foot skyscraper, and this column last month broke the news that Bank of NY Mellon is at least taking a good look at it.
MAKE ROOM: Bank of America is inquiring about space at 1 WTC, the suddenly super-hot, tower under construction by the Port Authority.

Now, we’ve learned, BofA has requests for proposals out with landlords both in Midtown and downtown to replace roughly 1 million square feet it has in some older buildings including 1185 Sixth Ave. and 114 West 47th St., where leases expire in a few years.
4 WTC is still under construction, but steel rising above its pedestal base is delayed pending a final financing agreement between the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties.

Conde Nast is already planning on a 1 million sf allotment of space at the Freedom Tower. Vanatone is also expected to have about 400,000 sf of space. With Bank of America or Bank of New York looking at 1 million sf of space, that could potentially speak for nearly all of the 2.6 million sf space in the tower. That speaks volumes for the belief that the real estate market would more than accommodate the construction of office space at Ground Zero to replace that which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, the demand seems to vindicate the vision of Larry Silverstein who vowed to rebuild the office space despite the souring economic climate. Tenants want modern office space and environmentally sound construction (LEED classification) because it reduces costs. The Ground Zero construction fits that bill and it's interesting to watch how demand has grown for the office space at Ground Zero.

While much of the focus recently has been on the Cordoba House proposal near Ground Zero, the pleas by St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to rebuild on its site adjacent to where 2 WTC collapsed atop the church have gone unanswered and unfulfilled.
Unlike some religious leaders who have spoken in favor of the Muslim center, including the pastor of Trinity Wall Street, the historic Episcopal church near ground zero, Bishop Andonios said he and other Greek Orthodox leaders remained neutral.

“We didn’t want to say anything that might jeopardize the plans for rebuilding our church,” he said in a telephone interview. “That is our No. 1 concern: building our church.”

Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said there was never any doubt that the church would be rebuilt. In 2008, the authority agreed to accommodate a 24,000-square-foot church building just east of St. Nicholas’s original location on Cedar Street, and promised $20 million to subsidize construction. But the following year, he said, final negotiations broke down over the precise siting and size of the building.

Bishop Andonios said the issues were more complex than that, and he criticized the Port Authority as having “cut off all communications” with church officials. He expressed some discomfort at stepping into the dispute on the side of those who are adamantly opposed to the Cordoba project.

“To us, this is an opportunity for everyone — to see some progress in our negotiations with the Port Authority,” Bishop Andonios said. “But also, for the people involved in the mosque, this controversy is their opportunity to dialogue with the community; to reach a better understanding of people’s sensitivities, perhaps.”

It was the news media, and then a number of political candidates, who first brought attention to the purported disparity in the official treatment of the developers of the Islamic center and of the Orthodox church, the bishop said.

“Some Greek-American newspaper reporters called me first,” Bishop Andonios said. “Then I heard from the candidates. Then it was Fox News.”
The situations are not analogous - the church and Port Authority have to work out a deal to relocate and rebuild and the Port Authority and Church agreed in principle that rebuilding would happen.

The delays are due in part to the continuing saga of the deconstruction of the former Deutsche bank building and using the church site as a staging area for construction. Once the former Deutsche bank building is demolished, staging for the rest of Ground Zero can proceed on that site (which will be used as the vehicle security center and possible office tower (5WTC)).

Silverstein and the Port Authority are still at odds over financing on 4WTC, and a deadline to get a deal done so that Silverstein can ready bonds this fall is nearing.

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