Earlier story: Freedom Tower finally a go
Silverstein to start prep work at site -
'Everyone a winner,' sez a happy mayor
World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein will finally begin living up to his mandate today - starting work on the Freedom Tower after months of acrimony and delays.
"Clearly, there are some issues that need to be resolved," Silverstein said in a statement. "But for today, my focus, like that of all New Yorkers, is on getting the Freedom Tower underway."
The Port Authority board approved a conceptual framework that begins construction and the drafting of a formal agreement that will be signed in September.
As a result, the biggest building planned for the 16-acre site - a heavily secured, 1,776-foot office tower with a projected cost of more than $2.1 billion - will begin an estimated five-year-long rise into the sky.
Initial work over the next few weeks will include the mobilization of heavy equipment, the setup of office trailers, the installation of stair towers 70 feet up to street level and site preparation for laying the foundation.
Port Authority chairman Anthony Coscia said the agency will finish excavating the WTC site's eastern section by the middle of next year, clearing the way for Silverstein to start building two more office towers.
By 2011, they'll stand across Church St. from the Century 21 department store and offer additional shops as part of their design.
"This is a real turning point in the development of lower Manhattan," Coscia said.
It came after months of tough, often bitter negotiations that reached their turning point last week when Port Authority executives, Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Pataki and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine got behind a unified proposal with two options.
The deal he accepted calls for Silverstein to build and own a total of three office towers along Church St. - 6.2 million square feet in all.
That's 62% of what he said he'd hoped to develop, before the Port Authority and political leaders came to doubt his financial ability to get the entire job done.
In addition, Silverstein will erect the Freedom Tower for the Port Authority, which also will take over from him the development of a site on Liberty St. that's expected to produce a residential building.
The deal also will steer $100 million to the World Trade Center Memorial, which began site preparation work last month.
"I think everybody is a winner here," Bloomberg said yesterday. "We all want to go ahead."
The mayor said he spoke to Silverstein late Tuesday, after he'd agreed to the deal.
"And I committed that the city would do everything it can to make sure that his experience as a developer downtown is a pleasurable and profitable one," Bloomberg added.
"This was not just signing something. He's making a commitment to go ahead and to get all of the development that we need downtown done, and get it done in a quality way and an expeditious way."
As part of the deal, the city and the Port Authority, which was headquartered in the World Trade Center until 9/11, agreed to become anchor tenants in the Silverstein tower planned at Church and Liberty Sts.
Coscia said this commitment, on the eastern side of the site, "allows the full commercial development to proceed, and creates less of a competitive pressure on tenancies for the Freedom Tower and other buildings that will be at the site."
Pataki called the deal with Silverstein "a very positive step," noting it will add to downtown work already underway - on Goldman Sachs' new headquarters, the WTC Memorial, the Port Authority's WTC PATH station and the MTA's Fulton St. Transit Center.
With Michael Saul
Originally published on April 27, 2006