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BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Under a cloudless, blue sky, dignitaries cut a ribbon at 4 World Trade Center on Nov. 13, making it officially the first office building to open on the 16-acre World Trade Center site since 9/11. After 12 years of fractious turf battles and struggles over insurance, it was a triumphant day for developer Larry Silverstein, his architect, Fumihiko Maki, and the politicians who flanked them on the stage.
The building represented a comeback for Lower Manhattan, the speakers said.
Although Superstorm Sandy flooded the World Trade Center site a year ago, Silverstein noted that the building was finished on time and came in under budget.
It cost about $2 billion to build, including land lease costs, and was partially financed by $1.2 billion in tax-free Liberty Bonds.
Sandy caused more than $185 million in damage to the World Trade Center site, flooding the visitors’ center and the sub-basement of the museum but 4 World Trade Center emerged unscathed. Buildings 2, 3, and 4 — all of them Silverstein properties — are further from the Hudson River than the rest of the site and above the flood line.
Nevertheless, in response to the storm, some equipment at 4 World Trade Center was moved to higher floors, said Dara McQuillan, spokesperson for Silverstein’s World Trade Center Properties.
“We’ve done a lot to make these buildings robust and resilient to any eventuality, including a storm,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can to make this building safe.”
McQuillan explained that the 72-story building has a concrete core housing exit stairs, elevators, sprinkler systems and all emergency systems. “It’s really a building within a building,” he said.
He added that 7 World Trade Center, just outside of the World Trade Center site and also a Silverstein property, was the model for 4 World Trade Center in terms of its protective measures and its energy efficiencies. The older building opened in May 2006. It was the first commercial office building in New York City to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It has a gold rating, as does 4 World Trade Center.
“It’s super energy efficient,” said Janno Lieber, president of World Trade Center Properties. “The glass is designed to let in light but not all the heat in summer.”
He said the building was half rented and that tenants would be able to move in toward the end of 2014. The Port Authority and New York City’s Human Resources Administration have taken space in the 2.3-million-square-foot building.
Lieber was optimistic that the remaining space would readily find tenants who will appreciate the building’s state-of-the-art technology, its dramatic views and its convenient location.
“This building is important because it signifies that we’re on the road to putting back the office space lost on 9/11,” he said.
Silverstein’s other World Trade Center site properties are also still awaiting tenants. Lieber said that eight floors of Tower 3 have been constructed, and the mechanical systems installed and that Tower 2 has been built to street level.
“We’re waiting for tenants [to proceed],” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll come in 2014.”
Meanwhile, 4 World Trade Center is an architectural showpiece. Its silvery glass façade reflects the sky and the changing light. Inside, its lobby entrance is a soaring space painted white above black Swedish granite that subtlely reflects the 9/11 memorial just outside.
A corridor lined with polished, honey-colored wood leads to the elevators. At the end of this corridor, evocative photographs of the sky, trees, snow scenes and other landscapes are projected on a wall.
Architect Maki described it as “minimalist.”
In keeping with the solemnity of the location, the effect is meditative, and emotional but restrained.