Rebuilding plans for WTC site unveiled to mixed reaction

NEW YORK -- Six proposals to redevelop the World Trade Center site were released Tuesday to a decidedly mixed reaction, with critics saying they included too much office space on hallowed ground and had too little imagination.

Others, however, said the plans included the two most important needs: a strong transportation hub and a powerful memorial to the 2,813 people who died in the rubble.

"They represent not initial ideas or wild visions, but how much has been done and that we are very close to consensus," said Kathryn Wylde, head of the New York City Partnership, an organization of local business leaders.

Each proposal calls for a memorial covering from four to 10 acres of the 16-acre site. Two proposals would redevelop the so-called "footprints" of the fallen twin towers and put the memorial elsewhere.

All plans call for replacing the 11 million square feet of commercial office space and the 600,000 square feet of retail space lost in the Sept. 11 attack. They also call for a 600,000-square-foot hotel to replace the hotel and mall that were destroyed.

Needles in memory

While no plan includes buildings as tall as the 110-story twin towers, each evokes the lost towers with at least one needle-like structure perched atop a building. The tallest structure in any of the plans is 85 stories.

Each plan includes the word "memorial."

John Whitehead, the head of the agency charged with rebuilding the site, said the proposals are works in progress and are subject to change before the final choice is made in December.

"The six plans are not final blueprints," said Whitehead, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. "Each represents a package of proposed ideas. These ideas can be mixed and matched and reconstituted based on public input."

Design professionals said they were disappointed that there was so little variety in the ideas presented.

"These plans aren't broad enough, bold enough or big enough," said Mitchell Moss, director of the New York University's Taub Urban Research Center.

Alfredo Andia, an architecture professor who ran a monthslong workshop among architecture schools on trade center planning, said he would have liked to see more variety.

Bolder, more extreme concepts -- such as reconstructing huge towers, or devoting the site to a large memorial -- went unexplored, said Andia, a professor at Florida International University in Miami.

Monica Iken, whose husband died in the attacks, said she was disappointed the plans called for so much office and retail space and were not definitive about the acreage for a memorial.

"If we build a beautiful memorial, I guarantee they will come. If we build office and retail space, I just don't know," said Iken, founder of the survivors' group September's Mission.

Saving the footprints

She also said that building on the footprints of the twin towers is unacceptable to many victims' families.

"The footprints are non-negotiable. They are sacred and hallowed space," she said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki both insisted that the proposals are works in progress. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he thought a "very substantial portion" of the site should become a memorial.

All plans call for a transportation hub connecting PATH trains, ferries and all the subway lines that serve lower Manhattan, with the possibility of later connecting to commuter railroad lines. Although no housing is included on the site itself, the plans call for converting nearby properties into apartments.

The plans were prepared by the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle, consultants to the development corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land.

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