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Freedom Tower Redesign Enhances Safety, Elegance

The skyscraper will be farther removed from the street and have a heavily fortified base.

June 30, 2005|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

New York officials Wednesday unveiled a new plan for the Freedom Tower at ground zero, saying the 1,776-foot skyscraper had been redesigned to meet security concerns and would be more elegant than originally envisioned.

Police refused to sign off on the building's design two months ago, voicing concerns that its base was too close to the sidewalk and could not be adequately protected against a truck bomb attack.

Months of design work had to be modified. And New York Gov. George E. Pataki -- who last year led a July 4 groundbreaking ceremony -- was embarrassed when critics charged that state officials could have avoided the delay by paying closer attention to security warnings.

"While this was a disappointment, [designers] didn't resort to wringing their hands," said John Cahill, a top Pataki aide who was appointed to oversee the building process. "They got back to work."

The result, Pataki said at a Wall Street news conference Wednesday, was a building that meets security requirements -- the base will be 90 feet back from the sidewalk, instead of 25 -- and makes "a soaring, iconic statement that will make us all proud."

There are some notable changes in the design by architect David Childs, who planned the original structure: The lobby sits inside the base, a 200-foot-tall pedestal, sheathed in concrete, steel, titanium and other blast-resistant metals. And the building's perimeter has been shrunk to 200 feet, mirroring the size of each of the original twin towers.

The new tower has been designed with a series of slanting, tapering sides that come together to form an octagon in the middle of the structure.

There will be 69 floors rising above the base, with 2.6 million square feet of office space -- an amount equal to the original design.

Above that will be an observation deck and restaurants.

A beacon of light emanating from atop the tower at night is meant to evoke the torch held by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor below, Childs said.

When the Freedom Tower is completed in 2010, Childs said, it will be the nation's tallest building and one of the world's safest structures. The cost has been estimated at $1.5 billion, although new security features may drive it higher.

Childs said the tower's safety systems -- including sprinklers, elevators, stairwells and communications equipment -- would be protected by a three-foot-thick wall of reinforced concrete. There would be separate stairways for firefighters, as well as biological and chemical filters in the tower's air supply system.

Larry Silverstein, the developer who holds the lease to the 16-acre site, said subterranean work on the tower's infrastructure is scheduled to begin next year. He said the newly designed tower -- which was expected to draw 4 million visitors a year -- would help spur an economic rebirth in Lower Manhattan.

"We're back on track with the Freedom Tower," he said. "This is a building that's going to make everyone proud, and it's been built to some of the highest safety standards in the world."

Despite their optimism, officials acknowledged that some people might not want to move into a building that could become a target for terrorists.

"Some say ... you can't build tall anymore," said Pataki, noting that he would be happy to have his children working on the highest floors of the new building. "But New Yorkers have always reached for the sky, and we'll never stop."

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