Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 153

The cost for the Freedom Tower (aka 1WTC) is now expected to top out at nearly $3.8 billion dollars. That's $700 million more than the last estimate given, and billions more than the originally estimated cost for the tower. It now ranks as the most expensively constructed skyscraper in the world.

Much of the cost is due to the increased and enhanced security and safety measures built into the iconic structure at the World Trade Center site, but there are new problems to contend with.

It now appears that the loading dock for the tower wont be ready in time for it to open for business with Conde Nast and other tenants moving in to the building in 2014 and 2015. The plan was to have a loading dock with 15 bays for trucks to allow deliveries, but now the Port Authority will have to build a temporary dock and deliver items through one of the building's street level entrances. This will add additional costs to the overall total, and strains credulity of the Port Authority to deliver the building on time.

The Port Authority certainly can't deliver the building on cost and its explanations for the situation also raise troubling questions of their own:
All involved insist the dock delay won’t interfere with tenants moving into their space by late 2014 or early 2015 — or with leasing the roughly 900,000 square feet that remain up for grabs in the 3.05 million square-foot tower.

“Five bays are enough for everybody,” a source said — which begged the question of why 13 are planned.

Contrary to what’s been expected at all the new WTC towers, the temporary dock won’t connect to the underground Vehicle Security Center that the PA is building just south of the 16-acre WTC site.

Although all vehicles bound for the towers are supposed to be screened for bombs and other terrorist threats at the VSC, the NYPD — which is responsible for security at the WTC in “collaboration” with the PA — is said to have “no objection” to the above-ground dock, a source told us.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, “The NYPD has had discussions with the [PA] on how to conduct screening in the interim until access to the security facility is completed.”

Commissioner Ray Kelly in the past strongly asserted the force’s role at the site — even requiring the redesign and relocation of 1 WTC seven years ago, when it was still called the Freedom Tower.

The loading dock will be on the tower’s east side. It cannot now be connected to the VSC for a simple reason: the temporary PATH station, immediately east of 1 WTC, stands in the way of the vehicle tunnel route. So one temporary facility begets another.

The route, starting at the VSC, turns east beneath Liberty Street, then north beneath Greenwich Street — and then west through what’s now the temporary PATH terminal toward 1 WTC.
The temporary PATH station can’t be dismantled until the huge, way-behind-schedule Hub is completed — which can’t happen before 2015.
So, the Port Authority has to build a temporary loading dock because the temporary PATH terminal can't be demolished until after the permanent hub is built. That means that delays with one part of the site creates a ripple effect across the entire site.

But much more troubling is the fact that the Port Authority sought to build a 15-bay loading dock but claims that 5 should be more than sufficient for the building's needs. That raises questions as to why 13 were needed in the first place - and the cost associated with all the additional space needed for the bays. That's space that could have gone for other purposes - including additional space for the WTC museum (which is behind schedule and construction has all but stopped as a result of a spat between the Port Authority and museum officials). Even after the temporary PATH station is deconstructed, a permanent docking area for 1WTC wont be ready until foundations are poured for the performing arts center that is planned for that site.

It's the same question I have raised numerous times over the temporary construction of the PATH hub. The temporary hub was built with three platforms and five tracks, but construction has meant that one of the platforms and two tracks were demolished to make way for the permanent alignment. Why was it necessary to spend the money on that excess capacity in the first place.

Once again, we see that the Port Authority cannot contain costs and its eyes are bigger than its pocketbook (which it can more or less pass on the added costs to commuters across the bridges, tunnels, and PATH system).

On the positive side, steel is now rising above the street on the site where 2 WTC is expected. It's still unclear whether the full tower will be built anytime soon, or whether it will be built as a stub for retail space with the office tower to be built later.

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