Volume 22, Number 24 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 23-29, 2009
City raises doubts about moving W.T.C. arts building
By Julie Shapiro
Three months after rebuilding officials floated moving the World Trade Center performing arts center to the site of the former Deutsche Bank building, the move looks unlikely to happen.
The move would have allowed construction on the PAC to begin as soon as next year. In contrast, the current site for the PAC, at Greenwich and Vesey Sts., will not be free until at least 2014, meaning the PAC wouldn’t be able to open until around 2017.
But although the PAC move gained tentative support in the community, changing any piece of the 16-acre World Trade Center puzzle is fraught with political, financial and engineering complications. Most significantly, if the performing arts center (or any other structure, for that matter) is ever going to be built at Greenwich and Vesey Sts., then the construction of the belowground supports needs to begin in the next few months.
The reason for the tight timeline is that the Port Authority is doing its own belowground work in the same area starting early next year, necessitating the shutdown of some PATH train tracks. The supports for the performing arts center ought to be built at the same time, because this may be the only chance to work near the PATH tracks.
“If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we believe it will be lost,” said Andrew Winters, director of the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects.
Since it is so important to build the supports for the PAC soon at Greenwich and Vesey Sts., Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin said now is not the time to think about moving the PAC somewhere else. Levin and Winters spoke Wednesday at a public hearing on the PAC, held by City Councilmember Alan Gerson.
Another problem with moving the PAC to the Deutsche Bank site is that the Port Authority was supposed to get that site to build Tower 5. In exchange, the Port would set aside land to the north for the memorial and performing arts center. Renegotiating that agreement at this point could be difficult, Levin said.
Still, the idea of putting the PAC on the Tower 5 site is not entirely dead. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has been studying the feasibility of the move and will have a report by the end of the year, L.M.D.C. President David Emil said. If the PAC site moved, it could be the base of a commercial or residential tower.
The L.M.D.C. has committed $60 million to the PAC, of which about $8 million has been spent on planning and previous designs, but the arts center will need much more money to get off the ground. The PAC also needs a board or governance structure, along with a design (Frank Gehry will likely be the architect).
Levin said Wednesday that it was too soon to start putting any of that in place, since the site will not be available until at least 2014. Two to three years before then, it will be time to finalize the design, board and fundraising, she said.
Levin also provided details on plans for the PAC, which will be anchored by the Joyce Theater, a dance company. The PAC will contain: a 1,000-seat dance and performance facility, which Levin said the city does not have anywhere else; a smaller theater that could convert to a banquet hall; multipurpose rehearsal spaces; a cafe with a performance space, similar to Joe’s Pub; public spaces for lectures and community meetings; and programs on the ground floor to activate the streetscape.