Ground ‘Zero to 60’Sep 05, 2007
What a difference a year makes, even at Ground Zero.
Once dogged by bitter fights over how to rebuild the World Trade Center, construction there is finally booming, with more than 600 hardhats pouring concrete, blasting rock and raising steel in a bid to fully rebuild the site by 2012.
The Freedom Tower – the first skyscraper to rise at Ground Zero – has reached street level with the setting of jumbo steel beams that will form the below-grade base. Next year, the tower’s frame will begin to rise above street level.
Alongside the Freedom Tower, hardhats have built 121 out of 150 concrete footings for the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum, with steel expected to be shipped in later this year to begin raising the memorial to street level.
The $2 billion transit hub designed by Santiago Calatrava is also under way.
Perhaps the least heralded project at the site is the massive, 80-foot-deep excavation of the eastern half of the trade center to create a watertight “bathtub” for three Church Street office towers.
Most of the work began after last year’s agreement between Ground Zero developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority, which owns the site. The bistate agency is in charge of the bulk of the project, with Silverstein concentrating on three towers.
“We’ve restored a level of confidence to the rebuilding process and that’s translated to the marketplace,” said PA Chairman Anthony Coscia.
He said that the reconstruction project has helped fuel renewed interest in the downtown office market, where demand for space is booming.
“These buildings will be built and the site will be restored,” Coscia told The Post during a recent interview.
Added together, $16 billion worth of construction will take place on the 16-acre site, making the World Trade Center the most expensive and most complicated construction project in a city brimming with tower cranes.
Because so many projects are being squeezed into the site, each one is linked to the other through shared subterranean structures – from piping to concourses to underground railroad and subway lines – further complicating the work.
“It’s not an easy project to build,” said Coscia, who likened the engineering effort to building a “subgrade Rubik’s Cube.”
Construction so far is mostly limited to the western half of the site, inside the 70-foot-deep bathtub that was built to contain the foundations of the Twin Towers. A second bathtub is being excavated on the eastern half of the site for Silverstein’s towers 2, 3 and 4.
Silverstein, who last year completed World Trade Center 7 just across Vesey Street from the WTC’s main campus, expects to begin construction of his three towers in 2008.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Silverstein said.
His design team of 120 architects and engineers has been working at a studio on the 11th floor of 7 World Trade Center.
“We will hit the ground running when the sites are handed over to us in January,” he said.
One setback for the reconstruction is the fiasco at the Deutsche Bank Building, which is being taken down by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. a block south of the WTC. Two firefighters died battling a blaze inside the toxic tower last month.
The Port Authority, which will take over the Deutsche Bank site once the tower is removed, has an agreement to sell it to JPMorgan Chase as a fifth WTC tower beside a park and new home for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.