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Barbara L. Nelson is editor of Real Estate New York.

NEW YORK CITY-Four days before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, conceptual designs were unveiled for World Trade Center Towers 2, 3 and 4 yesterday by three world-renowned architects, completing Larry Silverstein and Daniel Libeskind’s vision for Ground Zero.

The three towers respectively were designed by architects Lord Norman Foster, Lord Richard Rogers both of England and Fumihiko Maki of Japan, bringing the total number of architects associated with Ground Zero to seven. Libeskind with his master plan; David Childs, the designer of the Freedom Tower; Santiago Calatrava, the architect for the World Trade Center transit hub; and Michael Arad, designer of the WTC Memorial, round out the elite group.

Gov. George Pataki gave Silverstein, president of Silverstein Properties, until Sept. 7 to come up with designs for the three towers Silverstein is committed to building by 2012, according to an agreement reached with the Port Authority last April.

The architects were based at 7 WTC where the designs were unveiled, literally working around the clock, said Silverstein. “The governor asked if we could do it. It was an incredible challenge and an enormous opportunity,” he said. “The architects had offices overlooking Ground Zero for inspiration and a time clock ticking in front of them. Each design is timeless in its feel and reflects the individual genius of each architect.”

Tower 2 or 200 Greenwich St. designed by Foster and Partners is arranged around a central cruciform core. The 78-story tower comprises four blocks containing light-filled, flexible, column-free office floors that rise to the 59th floor.

The building will include 143,000 sf of retail, 60 office floors, including a sky lobby, that totals 2.3 million sf and a 65-foot high office lobby. It will have nine entrances: five entrances from street level, two below-grade entrances from the WTC Transit Hub and two from the retail area.

“The dramatic height of the tower celebrates the spirit that has historically driven Manhattan to build tall, and the diamond-shaped top will be a crowning landmark on the city’s skyline,” Foster said.

Designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, Tower 3 or 175 Greenwich St. will be located at the center of the buildings around the WTC Memorial site. It will stand centrally across Greenwich Street from the main axis formed by the two reflecting pools of the Memorial. The 71-story tower is also the third tallest building on the World Trade Center site. It will rise to 1,155 feet above street level and will have 54 office floors that will include 2.1 million sf of office space and five trading floors. It will also have five retail levels that total 133,000 sf.

“We created a slim tower and much like a gothic or classically designed building it looks like it grew out of the ground,” Rogers said. “We believe we have designed a transparent and legible building, which responds to both the architectural and social context of the area.”

Tower 4 or 150 Greenwich St. will be the fourth tallest skyscraper on the WTC site at 61 stories and 947 feet from street level. The building will include 53 office floors that total 1.8 million sf. Two thirds of the office space will be occupied by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and City of New York, and the rest will be retained by Silverstein Properties for commercial tenants.

“The fundamental approach to 150 Greenwich St. is two-fold–a “minimalist” tower that achieves an appropriate presence, quiet but with dignity, becoming a tribute to the Memorial, and a podium that becomes a catalyst in activating and enlivening the immediate urban environment,” Maki said.

The designs are still in their conceptual stages, with Tower 2 and 3 slated to begin construction next summer, while Tower 4 will break ground in 2008.

Charles Gargano, vice chairman of the Port Authority of NY & NJ, said the PA was doing all they could to speed up the process of preparing for construction to begin. “The Port Authority is working aggressively to build a new bathtub for the buildings along Church Street. We want to see those beautiful towers built as quickly as possible.”

Still much remains ahead for those rebuilding Ground Zero, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed the sentiments of many “There are still challenges ahead of us…before we can pat each other on the back too hard,” he said. “I commend Larry Silverstein, his team and these world-class architects for finally breathing hope into Downtown Manhattan and for heeding my calls for a plan that would recapture the true spirit and original character of this historic place.”

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