Charge of no leadership on arts center

One stakeholder at the World Trade Center site is voicing strong support for the oft-forgotten performing arts center.

“That project needs a shot in the arm of confidence,” said Janno Lieber, director of W.T.C. construction for Silverstein Properties. “Right now it only exists on paper.”

Lieber spoke at a City Council hearing Friday, and while PAC supporters might find his words encouraging, Lieber has no direct role in the PAC planning. Still, the developer of Towers 2, 3 and 4 thinks it is important to bring arts to the site.

Plans for the PAC have been looking less certain lately, though no one is taking it off the table. In October, the Port Authority, which is in arbitration with Silverstein on another W.T.C. matter, said construction on the PAC cannot begin until 2015 because the temporary PATH entrance currently sits right where the center will go. The city has not decided who will raise the money for the PAC or when fundraising will begin. Frank Gehry will design the building, which the Joyce Theater is slated to occupy, but renderings have not been released.

“There would be a lot more momentum if there were some leadership, a design and a fundraising effort underway,” Lieber said. “Raising money is important proof of credibility.”

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who led Friday’s hearing, also questioned the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. on plans for the arts center. The L.M.D.C. is the only entity that has allocated money for the PAC: $60 million, of which $55 million remains.

Sayar Lonial, director of planning for the L.M.D.C., said the L.M.D.C. wants to see the PAC move forward but cannot force other agencies to do more than they are doing. The Port Authority is building underground infrastructure to support a future performing arts center.

“That’s about as concrete as you can get at this point,” Lonial said.

Lonial added that it is difficult to raise money without a design, and it is difficult to have a design for a building that won’t break ground for another six years.

Kate deRosset, spokesperson for the city Department of Cultural Affairs, would not say who would raise money for the project.

“L.M.D.C. is funding the current planning phase to determine the viability of a PAC on the site, and how much such a facility would cost,” deRosset said. She said the L.M.D.C. is working with the city to design and plan the PAC. She would not give a timeline for the project, citing the complexities of the W.T.C. site.

At Friday’s hearing, Lieber spoke for many people in the community when he said, “Everybody needs to feel that that project has a future.”

—Julie Shapiro