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NEW YORK CITY-Steel for the Freedom Tower on the World Trade Center site is now 70 feet in the air and should rise above street level in the next few months. Observers in the area will only see more of the same from the long-anticipated project if predictions by speakers Downtown at a New York Building Congress luncheon come true.

The Freedom Tower, also called 1 WTC, as well as Towers 2, 3 and 4 are all scheduled for completion by 2012. “Can you count on this schedule?” asked Larry Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties which is developing the site. “You bet you can.”

The future of WTC, and the state of Downtown as a whole, will be spotlighted on May 13 at RealShare Downtown New York.

The project, which will is targeted to cost $20 billion with the inclusion of public works and transit improvements, will be the result of an “incredible construction-coordination machine,” said Anthony Shorris, executive director of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, which owns the site and is leasing it to Silverstein. Inflating construction costs are “a constant source of pressure,” he said, and “we’re wrestling with it as much as anyone else.” But Silverstein said those costs have “begun to moderate to some degree.”

The 488,000 sf of multi- and street-level retail at the project will be “dramatically higher quality” than the mall that was in the former World Trade Center before it was destroyed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Shorris asserted. That $1.5-billion aspect of the project, which is being developed by Westfield Group, will provide additional residential demand in the area.

The 75,000 to 100,000 workers at the 10.6-million-sf World Trade Center will also fuel demand for more residential, Silverstein said, pointing out that many of the office buildings on Wall Street are getting converted into apartments and condominiums. “It’s going to be manifest all over this Lower Manhattan area,” he said.

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