IN THE WORKS. Proposed 1,776-ft-tall Freedom Tower (right) and 835-ft-tall residential tower may alter Manhattan skyline. (image below courtesy of skidmore, owings & merrill, LLP / image manipulation (addition of residential tower) by Guy Lawrence for ENR)

For the first time since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, officials leading lower Manhattan’s $7-billion redevelopment are issuing a collective sigh of relief. Though they are still wrestling with the "devilish details" of shoehorning so much program into an 18-acre site, they expect to issue long-awaited design guidelines this fall. In any case, with the cornerstone laid for the 1,776-ft-tall Freedom Tower and the WTC memorial design under way, the most testy decisions are behind them.

"What’s remarkable has been the consensus on the plan," says Kevin M. Rampe, president of the state’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corp., created to guide the redevelopment.

Looking ahead toward implementation, the big headache is seen as construction coordination, especially with so many concurrent building, infrastructure and transportation projects. The work will be staged to avoid disruption to the already congested area. "We don’t want to shut down lower Manhattan during construction," says Rampe.

LMDC currently is seeking a construction coordinator to help smooth the way. A selection should be made this fall.

Though there is much agreement on the general plan, critics are concerned about saturating the ailing office market with 10 million sq ft of space. "We can’t afford not to do it" to keep the area competitive, says Rampe.


There also is concern about housing. Rampe does not want to hear about it. There are $50 million in federal Liberty Bonds to support affordable housing in the area, he says. Requests for proposals are out to develop remaining blocks of the neighboring Battery Park City. There are plans for a $25-million investment in parks for lower Manhattan. And there are plans to revitalize and increase access to the lower East River, including a scheme for an 835-ft-tall tower. In total, Congress has appropriated $3.5 billion to rebuild lower Manhattan.

The WTC leaseholder, Silverstein Properties Inc., expects occupants to begin moving into the first replacement office tower, the 52-story Seven WTC, at the end of 2005. Despite logistical challenges, "the job is running like clockwork," says Mel Ruffini, project executive for Seven WTC and the Freedom Tower, for Tishman Construction Corp. of New York. click here to view map

Adjacent to Seven WTC, Tishman is about to award the footings package for the Freedom Tower. It should take two years to complete the 500,000-sq-ft subgrade portion. Freedom Tower steel is set to top out at the 75th floor by mid-2008. "We...