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NEW YORK CITY-Yesterday’s press conference introducing the final design for a new New York Times headquarters building turned into a celebration of the city itself, with an ebullient Governor George Pataki persuading a packed house at 42nd Street’s Duke Theater that happy days, if not quite yet here again, are certainly within reach.

Introduced by Times Co. vice chairman Michael Golden, Pataki hailed the deal as a triumph for the city. “This is an important day because a decade or two from now people are going to look back and say this is another symbol that New York is coming back stronger than ever.”

The dramatic, Renzo Piano-designed office tower is being developed through a network of joint ventures between the New York Times Co., Forest City Ratner Co. and financial partner ING Real Estate. Arranged by Insignia/ESG vice chairman Mary Ann Tighe and executive managing director Gregory Tosko, the three-pronged deal includes an alliance between the Times and FCRC; a separate deal between FCRC and ING; and the 99-year, $85.6-million ground lease and land acquisition agreement between the Times, FCRC and the City and State of New York. The lease gives the joint venture the option to purchase the site after 29 years. FCRC will be the developer of the project, which will open in two phases during 2005 and 2006.

The building will be located on the east side of Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, opposite the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The 79,000-sf parcel, which will be acquired via condemnation by the state of 10 land parcels, occupies the entire block along Eighth Avenue and extends roughly half a block east toward Seventh Avenue. The condemnation and relocation of business on the site is expected to take up to one year.

Construction on the 840-foot tower is expected to begin in early 2003 and delivery is scheduled for 2006. The Times Co. will own and occupy roughly 800,000 sf of space on floors two through 28. The Times newsroom will occupy floors two through seven. FCRC will own approximately 600,000 sf of office space on floors 29 through 50 and 20,000 sf of ground-floor retail, all of which will be leased out. The project is expected to generate 2,300 construction jobs and 3,500 permanent jobs. Of the latter, 2,500 will be Times employees and 1,000 will work in the stores and offices leased by FCRC.

Piano, winner of the 1988 Pritzker Prize in Architecture, is collaborating with Fox & Fowle Architects on the project, which features a glass curtain wall designed to give the building a transparent appearance. Thin horizontal ceramic tubes placed on a steel framework in front of the glass will take on the changing color of the sky during the course of the day as light focuses on them from different angles.

“At street level,” Piano says, “the building will be open, transparent and permeable.” Glass-enclosed retail spaces along the ground floor will allow passersby to view the lobby and ground-floor gardens. The ground level will also house a 350-seat auditorium that will be operated by the Times Co. and used for cultural and civic events. The design also incorporates a rooftop conference center.

While yesterday’s event was ostensibly a kick-off party for the just-closed Times deal and a chance to see what the tower will add to the Midtown skyline, Pataki seized the opportunity to tout the project’s greater impact on the area, both fiscally and philosophically. The building, he said, is an expression of “belief in tomorrow, belief that this great city is the center of commerce and finance and the media for the 21st century. It’s also important because it breaks new ground. This moves the Times Square redevelopment process further to the west, including Eighth Avenue.”

Positioning the Times project as an anchor for the westward push envisioned in the just released city/state plan for the redevelopment of Far West Midtown, Pataki expressed hope for “building a new tower over the Port Authority Bus Terminal, building a new Penn Station, extending the subway line so that we can open up the west side to the type of investment and commitment in the future that will make this great city even stronger.”

Sharing the dais with Pataki, Golden and Piano were New York City Economic Development Corp. president Michael G. Carey, developers Bruce and Albert Ratner, and Empire State Development Corp. chairman Charles A. Gargano.

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