Reviving the site of the twin towers

By May 24, 2011

The issue: Conde Nast deal goes a long way toward restoring life, commerce and glamor to a battered neighborhood

Rebuilding the site of the World Trade Center was never in question. New York wasn’t about to leave acres of space undeveloped as a painful reminder of the 9/11 attack that demolished the twin towers.

AND THEIR replacement is — or will be — suitably spectacular, 1 World Trade Center, a 1,776-foot-tall office building with, depending how it’s finished out, 105 floors. The building, which will be the tallest in the United States, is now 66 stories and rising, scheduled for completion in January 2014, after nearly eight years of construction.

Getting it launched wasn’t easy, what with political infighting, problems razing an adjacent building, financial disputes, architectural disagreements and security concerns. Because of a false start, the new cornerstone had to be dug up and put in storage.

One WTC is still not clear of problems. Recently, a plan to clad the base in prismatic glass panels had to be abandoned because of manufacturing problems.

There was an issue other than the physical construction facing the developers and planners. What kind of tenants would inhabit the new building?

Even before 2001, the financial firms that had been the commercial life’s blood of Lower Manhattan were downsizing and moving to cheaper locations. The prospect of One WTC filling up with government offices, moved there under duress, quickened no one’s pulse.

THAT PROBLEM is now solved. The building now has a marquee and very New Yorkish anchor tenant — Conde Nast, the glossy magazine empire that publishes such titles as Glamour, Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.

In a deal said to be worth $2 billion over 25 years, the magazine company will take over the 20th to the 41st floors. That the move entailed serious glitz was evident in one of the knottier points of the negotiations: assurances that limousines and Conde Nast’s own fleet of more than 100 black cars could pull up to the building with their celebrity visitors without undue security hassles.

With Conde Nast aboard, it’s hoped other A-list companies will follow.

The attacks of 9/11 are an ugly and bitter chapter in our history that restoring life, commerce and, yes, glamor to that battered neighborhood will go a long way toward closing.

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