Arts groups look to bring culture to W.T.C.


By Sascha Brodsky

The art centers planned for the new World Trade Center site will ensure the economic viability of Lower Manhattan by drawing visitors to the area, officials said last week.

“New York is home to some of the most talented arts professionals and this center will greatly enhance the quality of life in the area,” said Richard J. Schwartz, the chairperson of the New York State Council on the Art at a forum held at Pace University by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. “It will generate an economic impact in excess of $13 billion. It is fitting that a vibrant cultural community should be part of the planning of Lower Manhattan.”

Schwartz’s comments came as plans for integrating a cultural center into the renewal of ground zero are coalescing. More than 75 cultural establishments, ranging from city museums to lesser-known groups like the Jose Limon Dance Foundation, are seeking to be part of the arts centers planned for the new World Trade Center site. In June the L.M.D.C. invited arts groups worldwide to submit proposals to be part of the center.

Organizations must identify the budget and financing for the cost to construct and operate their proposed ideas by the Sept. 15 deadline.

Officials said at the forum last week that the length of leases for cultural institutions will not be set by the L.M.D.C.

“There will be no particular length of time,” said Kevin Rampe, president of the L.M.D.C.

The City Opera had been seen as a contender to be the centerpiece of the planned cultural center but officials recently said that an opera would require too much space. The New York Times reported last week that the opera house idea fell out of favor after officials decided to cut the available floor space by about 20 percent.

Tim Carey, president of the Battery Park City Authority, told Downtown Express that the opera company is now discussing opening catty-corner to the W.T.C. between Vesey and Murray Sts. on an undeveloped B.P.C. site.

A museum of about 140,000 square feet is also planned for the site commemorating the World Trade Center attack. In addition, four cultural-performance centers of about 200,000, 110,000, 70,000, and 40,000 square feet are planned for the area near the memorial.

“We felt it was important to have a more defined and open process where we could invite people to hear our goals and opportunities on the site,” said Anita Contini, the director of the L.M.D.C.’s memorial and cultural planning. “We want to hear about as many creative ideas as possible and to solicit ideas to create interpretive museum about 9/11.”

A central question that must be answered before construction begins is who will fund the arts center.

Schwartz said at the forum “most of the funding will have to be self-generated.”

Kate Levin, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, emphasized the idea of a public-private partnership to pay for the center.

“We are looking at various funding mechanisms including incentives to relocate,” Levin added. “One possibility is to create zoning bonuses for designated cultural space. We must create a 24-hour environment with studio space at all times, museums during the day and performances at night.”

Levin said that the L.M.D.C. is taking pains to find the right mix of cultural institutions.

“Our approach to cultural development is to create a cultural density of institutions that do no compete with each other but complement each other,” she added. “New York City does not control the majority of land in Lower Manhattan so we must work with landlords and developers.”

One challenge will be to balance the liveliness of a cultural space with the need to create a solemn memorial and bustling business environment, officials said.

Andrew Winters, a vice president of planning for the L.M.D.C. said, “The office and retail space will complete the site and add to the vitality. The museum and cultural area will bring a vitality to the area that will serve all of Lower Manhattan.”

1-Museum on Sept 11th Place

100,000 – 180,000 sq. ft.

2-North Cultural Bldg

100,000 – 120,000 sq. ft.

3-South Cultural Bldg

35,000 – 45,000 sq. ft.

4-North Cultural Bldg

65,000 – 75,000 sq. ft.

5-Cultural space

150,000 – 250,000 sq. ft.