WTC developer sets out rebuilding plan

The man who plans to rebuild the World Trade Centre has sketched out his plan in detail for the first time, including a proposal to build an arts, civic and memorial centre on a small part of where one of the twin towers once stood.

Larry Silverstein, the real estate developer who last July signed a 99-year lease for the World Trade Centre, will ask families of the victims to consider building a centre on part of the area the families view as hallowed ground.

Silverstein spoke to Reuters on Wednesday, a week before the agency leading the siteÂ's redevelopment releases five other competing plans.

His plan calls for a five-acre memorial where the north tower once stood, surrounded by five to six office buildings. A mass-transit station, perhaps similar to Grand Central Station, would be built across the street from the memorial, as would underground shops.

Silverstein said his teamÂ's plan will win the competition because it does the best job integrating the buildings with the mass transit system needed to bring in commuters.

The cornerstone of any plan will be the memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the September 11 air attacks that destroyed the 110-story towers, civic experts agree. There has been a huge battle over how much of the 16-acre site to set aside for the memorial. Silverstein has proposed five acres -- the same size as midtown ManhattanÂ's Bryant Park.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation wants to subject the six plans that will be submitted to it to a thorough public review, including a 5,000-strong town hall meeting later this month. Neither Silverstein nor the city-state agency are necessarily in the driversÂ' seat because the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the land.

Jointly controlled by New York Governor George Pataki and New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, the Port Authority has made it clear that the rebuilding must include enough commercial and retail space to help fund its billion-dollar budget.

That is the main obstacle facing a proposal by ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to preserve the entire site as a memorial to those who died.

To rebuild the site, Silverstein will have to win a court fight with his insurers, who say they owe him $3.55 billion (2.3 billion pounds), about half of what he is seeking. The insurers claim the air attacks were one incident; Silverstein claims they were two, which means the insurers would owe him $7.1 billion.

Noting the remains of some 2,000 people have never been found, Silverstein, who has met with family members, said: 'ItÂ's a horror, an absolute horror, and none of us can contemplate how horrible it is.'

Silverstein -- who spent $3.2 billion to lease the World Trade Centre -- proposed setting a square memorial on the west side of the site, bordering West Street. That roadway will be submerged, a project whose cost has been estimated at $2 billion.

Five to six office towers would be built around the memorial, creating a framework. The mass transit station would be located just east of a reopened Greenwich Street, a north-south thoroughfare. Retail space would also be east of Greenwich Street, and would be located underground, partly to avoid clashing with the memorial.

The real estate developer, who estimated it will take seven years to rebuild the site at a cost of $7 billion, vowed nothing commercial would be built where either tower stood.

Instead, the north towerÂ's footprint would become part of the memorial. An art, civic and memorial Centre would be built over a small portion of where the south tower stood.

All the office towers would be about the same height as the buildings that now exist in downtown Manhattan; there is little sentiment for rebuilding the 110-story twin towers, mainly because office towers that are higher than 65-stories or so now are seen as impossible to evacuate.

'I think itÂ's going to take awhile for people to recognise that similar tragedies, God forbid, will not recur,' Silverstein said.

(source: Reuters)

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