WTC Green Space to Expand with New Liberty Park

Liberty Park will be built on the south side of the WTC, atop the Vehicular Security Center

Liberty Park will be built on the south side of the WTC, atop the Vehicular Security Center

Construction of the underground vehicle-screening and parking area at the southwest corner of the World Trade Center (WTC), called the Vehicular Security Center (VSC), has made tremendous progress over the past year. The structure itself is nearing completion, with crews from the Port Authority now working to complete its mechanical systems, interior finishes, and access points both at grade and within the subterranean complex — which stretches around half of the entire 16-acre WTC site (the WTC Memorial and Museum occupies the other half).

At the January 6th Community Board 1 Planning Committee meeting, Port Authority spokesperson Glenn Guzi explained that with the VSC’s structure now erected, construction vehicles should be using the facility by approximately late 2014. Meanwhile, work is beginning the 1.4-acre Liberty Park atop the VSC roof. In addition to adding green space to the neighborhood, the park will serve as a landscaped pedestrian thoroughfare between West and Greenwich Streets, and overlook the WTC site thanks to its higher elevation.

On the west side of the park, the Liberty Bridge will provide an elevated pedestrian crossing over West Street to the World Financial Center. Pedestrian walkways will traverse the park, separated by planted areas and benches.

Port Authority Assistant Director of WTC Construction Carla Bonacci is leading the Liberty Park project, and at the meeting explained that to accommodate the 20-foot change in elevation between Greenwich and West Streets, stairways will be built on all four corners, as well as a ramp accessible at the southeast corner. Sidewalks also will be built at grade around the park, though heavy truck and bus traffic will access the VSC from the Liberty Street side at all times of day.

Bonacci said that trees ranging from 18 to 35 feet will be planted throughout the park for shade and seasonal colors, including seven trees on the far east side of the park. Ivy will be planted on the north wall of the elevated park to boost its sustainability and add greenery facing the WTC Memorial plaza. She said by approximately early 2015, Liberty Park should be substantially complete and open to the public.

The agency also is coordinating foundation preparations for the new Santiago Calatrava-designed St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which will rise on the east side of the park area along Greenwich Street, between Liberty and Cedar. A 750-seat outdoor amphitheater will create a community gathering space on the church’s west side (though it will not be used for public concerts or other organized events).

At the CB1 meeting, Guzi said installation of the WTC Transportation Hub’s giant steel arches continues, with 60 “ribs” (about half of the total) now being welded into place to form the oculus. The hub’s “wings,” which will extend from the lower arches, will become visible by approximately mid-2014. Underground, marble is being installed throughout the mezzanine, and completion of the permanent PATH platforms is on track. Sometime in 2014, pedestrians are expected to have a new underground access route to the PATH station directly from the newly opened West Concourse.

At the WTC’s northwest corner, 1 World Trade Center — officially the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere — is now being built out, with a new leasing office soon to open on the 63rd floor. The tower’s first tenants are expected to begin moving in early this year, including Conde Nast (floors 20 to 44), the U.S. General Services Administration (floors 50-55), and Vantone China Center (floors 64-69). Operator Legends Hospitality also is fitting out the future “One World Observatory” on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors. Completion of the facade and lower-podium glass will occur after the exterior building hoist is removed later this year.

The street grid through the WTC site is also being constructed, with a section of Greenwich Street now complete outside 4 WTC. Built by WTC leaseholder Silverstein Properties, 4 WTC opened on November 13th (read more about the opening here). In late December, Silverstein also announced that construction of the 80-story 3 >WTC will continue, now that a major tenant has signed on to occupy more than a half-million square feet by approximately 2017.

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