Rebuilding a Legacy
Despite that stocked lineup, the heart of the company’s current efforts is rebuilding the World Trade Center. “There’s so much history [there] for our firm,” Dan Tishman says, referring to the company’s central role as construction manager for the original complex built in the late 1960s and early 1970s under the leadership of his father, John.
“Probably my most vivid memory as a kid is having my father take me down to the World Trade Center site when he was the construction manager…and walking on the site when it was a hole and they were building the slurry wall,” Dan Tishman adds.
The destruction of the Twin Towers and the rest of the complex in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left deep scars, but the process of rebuilding actually began the next afternoon.
“We get a call from Larry,” Dan Tishman says of a conversation Silverstein had with John Tishman. “Larry said, ‘John, we’re going to rebuild. Can you guys be at a meeting tomorrow?’”
Not long after, initial planning began on what would become the new 1.7-million-sq-ft 7 World Trade Center, which broke ground in 2002 and was completed in 2006 – replacing one of the buildings that had been destroyed.
“There was never any doubt after [the attacks of Sept. 11] who I was going to call to rebuild,” says Silverstein. “It was the most natural reaction I could have had. And they didn’t hesitate either. It all seemed to fall into place instantly. They were right there.”
Tishman was later selected as construction manager for most of the commercial office space at the complex, which at the outset was controlled by Silverstein. But several years into the planning and early construction, tussles over control and financing led to a reorganization that put the Freedom Tower in the hands of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and left other jobs with Silverstein. Tishman remains in its construction manager role on all of the upcoming projects – and is playing other senior advisory roles as well, including Dan Tishman serving as co-chair of the building committee for the World Trade Center Memorial.
Tishman says the firm is not oblivious to political and policy debates swirling around the effort that has answered so far to five different governors from New York and New Jersey. “I’m one that believes that, yes, things could have been maybe a little bit quicker,” he adds.
But he also says it took more than a year to clear the site, and several years to plan what ultimately will be a complex with a half-dozen towers, a transportation center, a memorial museum and park, and a garage, among other features. And he says progress to date is not far from what a typical large-scale project might have achieved from the point of earliest planning.
“Everyone wondered why it was taking so long to get above grade,” Tishman says. “Below grade, the Freedom Tower is 600,000-plus sq ft. So we’ve built what by any regard would be a large building in any city [but] was never seen. And we built it around [several] operating PATH tubes without having an outage even for an hour. And it took about 18 months.”
The effort calls for the company’s expertise as “complexity managers,” says Jay Badame, regional president for Tishman’s New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania operations. “We’re working at the highest level of difficulty down there,” he says.