Friday, November 18, 2005

The Battle For Ground Zero, Part 69

You can now get a walkthrough of the newly completed 7 WTC. It's the first tower to be rebuilt in the Ground Zero area. The original 7WTC was badly damaged when the Twin Towers collapsed, and the fires within the structure caused the collapse during the afternoon of 9/11.
Workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the gleaming 52-story tower, which developer Larry Silverstein is calling the most high-tech in the city and which sits directly across the street from the former site of the Twin Towers.

Set to open in mid-March, the tower boasts 40,000 square feet of open space on every floor, unobstructed by columns or walls between the central core and the floor-to-ceiling glass. The original 7 WTC collapsed from fires on Sept. 11, 2001.

In a mock-up of an office on the 27th floor, sunshine pours in from every direction through glass that allows a maximum of light while deflecting excess heat.

From one corner of the building designed by architect David Childs, a visitor can see the skyline at all points of the compass — without moving.

So far, only a handful of tenants have been lined up to rent space. But Silverstein hopes following receipt of a certificate of occupancy this week, he can ratchet up the marketing effort.
Silverstein's battling a mayor who has ulterior motives and has acted to undermine the rebuilding of office space downtown, the NYT which has fought against Silverstein and the Port Authority's rebuilding plans since they affect the Times' own building plans (and those of its construction partner Forest City Ratner), and the higher costs associated with building a highly secure facility on top of a power substation.

The fact is that the Mayor and Governor need to clear the air and get their priorities straight. And word is that they've met to hash out their differences. Rebuilding should be first and foremost. The master plan, which has been repeatedly adjusted and modified over the past four years, calls for the rebuilding of 10 million square feet of office space. Bloomberg seems to be interested in making sure that the area is a 24x7 environment that doesn't go dark when companies go home for the night.

I'm not convinced that that should be a concern given that many office buildings have already converted to lofts and residential space since 2001 because of the higher rents that building owners can get from residential conversions. Even 90 West Street was converted to residences in the course of its restoration after being badly damaged by the collapsing towers. We already have a 24x7 community in Lower Manhattan. The problem is the gaping hole in the middle of Lower Manhattan that hasn't been filled with life.

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