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NEW YORK CITY-Developer Larry Silverstein played master of ceremonies at yesterday’s unveiling of the new 7 World Trade Center, officially heralding the first major step toward the redevelopment of Ground Zero. The $700-million project, under construction since May, will be taller but less bulky than its predecessor, which burned down following last year’s Sept. 11 twin tower bombings.

While Silverstein called it a “bittersweet day, bitter because of the memories of Sept. 11,” the atmosphere was across-the-board optimistic. Even the weather cooperated, as Silverstein introduced a victory-flushed Governor George Pataki, a Bermuda-tanned Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a dais packed with city, state and private-sector dignitaries to an SRO crowd gathered at the sun-drenched construction site.

Skidmore Owings and Merrill architect David M. Childs explained the new design, which he said is “all about openness.” At 52 stories, with the first 10 floors housing a Con Edison substation, the new 7 WTC will be a 750 feet tall glass-curtain parallelogram totaling 1.6-million sf, roughly 400,000 sf smaller than its predecessor. Set farther to the west than the original building, the new 7 WTC will return Greenwich Street to the original grid, allowing for pedestrian and vehicular access.

Bounded by Vesey, Barclay and Washington streets and West Broadway, the building will have 42 office floors, each averaging 39,750 sf. The ground floor will have a 45-foot stone-and-glass entry lobby, which will face a 15,000-sf triangular tree-lined park and pedestrian plaza.

While much of the $700 million development cost is expected to come from insurance proceeds, Silverstein has applied for $400 million in Liberty Bond funding for the project. The New York City Industrial Development Agency, which is responsible for awarding Liberty Bond financing for commercial projects, will hold a public hearing on the application next month.

Safety features of the new building include reinforced concrete walls protecting the entire core of the structure, including exit stairs, elevators and lobby; fireproofing material that is at least twice as durable as required by current building codes; wider exit stairs in the core; extra water capacity for building sprinkler systems; a fresh air system originating at the top of the building that includes multiple levels of high-performance filters, reducing the possibility of contaminants entering from the exterior; fuel tanks buried outside the building footprint; and emergency generators located at the top of the building to maximize distance from potential threats.

Tishman Construction Corp., which built the original 7 WTC, is serving as general contractor for the project, which is expected to come online in 2005.

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