--> Gill Blog: Freedom Tower - World's Safest Office Building?

Gill Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Freedom Tower - World's Safest Office Building?

New York State Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new design of the Freedom Tower now proposed for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site destroyed by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The new design, by project architect David Childs, is a completely new proposal from the ground up in place of the competition-winning proposal by world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind, designed to ensure a better building.
In almost every respect, the new design for the so-called Freedom Tower, which was presented to the public yesterday, is better than the one it replaces. Above all, it will be safer, less vulnerable to terrorist attacks from the ground, thereby easing the New York Police Department's basic concerns about security, which sent the architect David Childs back to the drawing board only a few weeks ago. This building - like the preceding design - will also set rigorous new standards for protecting its occupants and guaranteeing a safe exit in case of disaster.

According to press reports, the redesign was worked up in a matter of weeks after an embarrassing setback for the trade center redevelopment, when the New York Police Department deemed the first version of the Freedom Tower too vulnerable to attack by car or truck bomb.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement released after the unveiling that the "new design provides for a level of bomb blast mitigation consistent with the N.Y.P.D.'s report on the Freedom Tower and adequate to the threat" described in federal safety guidelines.

Developer Larry Silverstein said the redesign will create a safer building—the height of the structure symbolically reaching 1776 feet as originally proposed—far more secure from bomb attacks at street level.
"I think it will be very safe," Governor Pataki said. Indeed, he said, if one of his children were hired by a Freedom Tower tenant, he would "be confident in their safety."

However, the building will not be completed until 2010, a year or two later than first planned. The history of large-scale development in New York suggests that the road ahead for the Freedom Tower will be tortuous, particularly at a site where so many competing interests and emotions reign. Further modifications are almost inevitable. Even now, it is not clear how much the redesign will add to the estimated $1.5 billion budget nor who would pay for the security enhancements.

Though Mr. Silverstein reported "some fascinating discussions with respect to very large block users," no prospective tenants have been publicly identified, except for the governor's office.

Few discussions could possibly have been as "fascinating" as the one with Goldman Sachs, who exploded the original design a few weeks ago by showing the developer a dramatic video during a meeting to discuss its proposed 40-story headquarters, just to the northwest of the Freedom Tower.
Stunning many in the room, Goldman representatives showed a film of a vehicle, packed with more than 10,000 pounds of explosive material, blowing up and leaving a huge crater. While some participants viewed the film as an insensitive move by Goldman, it also prompted discussion about the amount of explosives that the buildings would be protected against. At that moment, the talks began moving toward clearer standards for "hardening" buildings to blasts.

Appraisal: Fear in a soaring tower.


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