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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Future still uncertain for some buildings near trade center site

March 31, 2003

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— Eighteen months after the World Trade Center was destroyed, several surrounding office buildings are still closed and the future of the largest remains uncertain.

The 40-story Deutsche Bank tower just south of the trade center site has been cleared of a mold that infested it for months after the attack, but its owners have not decided whether to raze or repair it. Other buildings, such as a major post office building just north of the site, are still being cleaned and overhauled.

According to Tenantwise.com, a commercial real estate firm, nine of the 23 large office buildings damaged in the Sept. 11 attack are still closed.

The Deutsche Bank building is the largest at 1.4 million square feet. Still shrouded in black netting, it is an eyesore to downtown residents and business owners, said Madelyn Wils, who heads the local community board and is a board member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the city-state agency charged redeveloping the trade center.

"It's very hard to talk about revitalizing the area when you have one of the largest buildings still in shrouds and in limbo," Wils said.

Last year, the Deutsche Bank building was found to be infested with mold growth promoted by moisture from fire sprinklers.

It has since been cleaned and "we have yet to identify any health concerns associated with the building," said Sandra Mullin, a spokeswoman for the city Health Department.

Sources familiar with downtown redevelopment issues said Deutsche Bank was in negotiations with its insurers that would determine whether it was cheaper to renovate the building, once valued at $170 million, or tear it down.

"We have not taken any final decision on the future of the building," said Rohini Pragasam, a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank.


Postal officials thought their 15-story Church Street building with its ornate lobby would reopen last fall. That has been pushed back to spring 2004, spokeswoman Pat McGovern said.

She said the building was being gutted and the interior would have to be rebuilt.

Also still closed is Fiterman Hall, a 15-story building that was donated to the City University of New York in 1993 and had just been renovated at a cost of $60 million when it was damaged by trade center debris.

Meanwhile, officials are moving forward with plans for the 16-acre trade center site itself.

The development corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land, chose architect Daniel Libeskind's design for the site last month and will soon announce an international competition to create a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attack.

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