Price of FreedomJun 17, 2008
The Freedom Tower is up for grabs. Although Port Authority of New York and New Jersey insiders deny wanting to sell it outright, the agency has approached major developers about taking the slow-moving Ground Zero project partially or completely off its hands, sources told The Post.
PA Chairman Anthony Coscia and Executive Director Chris Ward have recently had talks with Related Cos., the Stephen Ross-led giant that created the Time Warner Center and has been chosen to develop the West Side rail yards.
Earlier this year, sources said, the PA, advised by Deutsche Bank, made a similar pitch to Brookfield Properties, the publicly traded company that owns the World Financial Center. Reps for Related and Brookfield did not return calls.
With Brookfield, a source said, “The PA was a bit vague as to how it would work, but they basically wanted to privatize the Freedom Tower. But Brookfield didn’t regard the project as economically viable.”
PA officials declined comment. But insiders said the agency wants a developer to form a “partnership” that would reduce its risk while bringing in a company “fully knowledgeable in their core business of real estate development.”
Because the PA owns the land, a transfer would likely take the form of a long-term lease.
It was understood that any developer jumping in would not start from scratch, but complete the $3 billion tower as it’s currently designed.
However, the PA does not need a developer merely to finish building the skyscraper – the agency prides itself on its construction expertise. Nor does it need one just to handle leasing, a chore now assigned to Cushman & Wakefield.
The PA has in the past acknowledged the possibility of taking on a financial partner such as Fortress or Blackstone in the delayed tower – but not a development company to take a majority or minority stake.
Now, sources say, both options are on the table – “whichever will alleviate pressure on them.” The PA has proclaimed its commitment to build the Freedom Tower ever since it assumed control of the project from Larry Silverstein 18 months ago.
Steel is slowly rising – more than can be said of anything else at Ground Zero – but it’s clearly a fiscal and political burden for the PA. “Office development and leasing is not their strong suit,” a source said.
“They have their hands full with the rest of Ground Zero, and they want to clear the decks if they take over Moynihan Station” – as Sen. Chuck Schumer has proposed.
The Freedom Tower was supposed to be an “iconic” skyline reclamation reaching 1,776 feet. But it’s since been reduced to 1,368 feet – the height of the original Twin Towers – topped by a broadcast antenna that might never be built.
Last week, Gov. David Paterson asked Ward to audit Ground Zero projects to determine how much they will cost and when they can be completed.