World Trade Center's new tower opens

One World Trade Center is reflected in the glass windows of Three World Trade Center (above), a project of American property developer Larry Silverstein (left).
One World Trade Center is reflected in the glass windows of Three World Trade Center (above), a project of American property developer Larry Silverstein.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
One World Trade Center is reflected in the glass windows of Three World Trade Center (above), a project of American property developer Larry Silverstein (left).
One World Trade Center is reflected in the glass windows of Three World Trade Center, a project of American property developer Larry Silverstein (above).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Three World Trade Center, the third of a planned four skyscrapers on the iconic Twin Towers site, is the fifth-tallest building in the Big Apple

NEW YORK • American property developer Larry Silverstein has not let his dreams crumble to dust even if his world seemed to cave in right from the start.

Back in 2001, he and several minority investors had bagged what he thought was a plum deal - a 99-year lease tied to New York's iconic Twin Towers for US$3.2 billion.

But a mere six weeks later, on Sept 11, the two buildings were destroyed by terrorists who had commandeered hijacked planes to crash into the towers. The attacks claimed close to 3,000 lives and injured more than 6,000 people.

Mr Silverstein could have cut losses then, heeding his insurer's advice to move on. But he opted to give the 6.5ha site a fresh lease of life, in a bid to lay a new foundation to serve the business needs of downtown New York.

"We had to go forward. We had to rebuild. The World Trade Center had become the locomotive of business activity in Lower Manhattan and the business activity in Lower Manhattan was the dynamic that sparked the economy of the city of New York," Forbes cited him as saying.

Mr Silverstein has stayed the course, though the journey to rebuild has not been smooth.

Still, earlier this month and almost 17 years on, the third of a planned four skyscrapers on the site, where half the space has been allocated for a memorial and a memorial museum, opened.

Three World Trade Center, an 80-storey structure, soars 329m, making it the fifth-tallest building in the Big Apple. With 2.5 million square feet of space, it will eventually accommodate 14,000 workers.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning British architect Richard Rogers, it has been hailed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo as "a soaring symbol of revitalisation of downtown New York City and a testament to the enduring spirit of New Yorkers after 9/11".

Tenants have been found for about 40 per cent of the office space in the US$2.7-billion (S$3.7-billion) building, which boasts column-free floors and full-height windows, Xinhua news agency cited Mr Silverstein, 87, as saying at its official opening.

The completion of Three World Trade Center marks the latest triumph for the businessman whose efforts to revitalise the site had faced many headwinds over the years.

These ranged from disputes with government agencies to quarrels with insurers and showdowns with families who wanted the site to be used only as a memorial for the 9/11 victims.

Now, he can look back with great satisfaction 17 years on, with work on Three World Trade Center and Four World Trade Center (which opened in 2013) wrapped up.

One World Trade, the tallest building on the site, was developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Opened in 2014, it is also the tallest in America.

But Mr Silverstein's work is not all done yet. He still has to shepherd through the completion of Two World Trade Center, with plans gathering some dust - at least for now, pending the search for an anchor tenant and financing.

Originally, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was keen to take up space in the building.

"The whole lease was fully negotiated out... but he decided last minute (to pull out). He was upset with the state of the world at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.

"It looked like there were some potentially serious financial issues that were presenting themselves.

"I remember him calling me on the 15th day of January 2016, telling me he was concerned and it would not be wise to go ahead," Mr Silverstein told the Commercial Observer.

"We've just got to find the occupant of that last tower."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'World Trade Center's new tower opens'. Print Edition | Subscribe