WTC’s Developer: Rebuilt Trade Center Eyed in 10 Years

Wed September 24, 2003 - Northeast Edition

NEW YORK (AP) After two tumultuous years, World Trade Center (WTC) developer Larry Silverstein is looking ahead.

“Within a 10-year time frame, I fully expect to see the site fully developed,” Silverstein said in an interview at his Fifth Avenue office where a conference room wall was covered with designs for rebuilding the lower Manhattan site.

“The entire development is going to be unlike anything that one could have envisioned prior to 9-11,” the private developer said. Silverstein said he expected rebuilding to proceed without problems —despite an ongoing fight with insurance companies and the concerns of the victims’ families.

The cornerstone for the 1,776-ft. (532.8 m) Freedom Tower should be laid next summer, he said, with its steel structure in place by Sept. 11, 2006.

The tower, centerpiece of the redevelopment, will be the first building to be constructed at Ground Zero. Plans call for a collection of jagged modern buildings with office and retail space, cultural centers, a memorial and transit hub.

Silverstein also reflected on the tumult that followed his July 2001 deal to lease the World Trade Center from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state agency that owns the property.

“It’s hard to realize that two years have transpired,” he said. “It seems as if Sept. 11 was the day before yesterday.”

It’s certainly not what Silverstein envisioned when he signed the 99-year lease just six weeks before the attack. The deal assured the once little-known developer a key role in redevelopment.

Silverstein has feuded at times with the site architect, Daniel Libeskind, and managed to bring in his own architect, David Childs, to take the lead role in construction of the Freedom Tower.

But he offered nothing but praise for both, along with the architect for the site’s new commuter rail station, Santiago Calatrava.

“Three gifted architects, world-renowned, with major bodies of work to their credit,” he said.

The hardest part of his job, Silverstein said, remains his meetings with the families of the 2,792 victims killed in lower Manhattan. Many of the survivors were quick to offer opinions or complaints about the redevelopment.

“It’s the single most difficult task in this entire experience,” Silverstein said. “Dealing with the families and their pain and their suffering and their grief. Nothing comes close.”

The most frustrating part of the past two years? Dealing with the various insurance companies involved with the twin towers, a chore that has landed the two sides in court over how much money is owed Silverstein.

The parties disagree over whether the attacks that collapsed the twin 110-story buildings constituted two separate incidents.

Twenty-one insurance companies are arguing in court that the terrorism was a single “occurrence” as defined in the trade center’s policy. If ruled a single occurrence, Silverstein would get $3.5 billion; he believes he’s entitled to $7 billion, saying the attacks were separate incidents.