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NEW YORK CITY-A week after the demolition of the 9/11-damaged Fiterman Hall that was to serve as classroom space, city and state officials broke ground Tuesday on a $259-million replacement. The 14-story project near Ground Zero will house classroom and office space for the Borough of Manhattan Community College and is expected to be completed in 2012.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who presided over the ceremonial groundbreaking, says in a statement that the reconstruction of Fiterman Hall “will be the latest milestone in Lower Manhattan’s remarkable comeback, and its transformation into a vibrant, 24/7, family-friendly community.” It will contain 96 classrooms, office space, community gathering areas, a small conference center, an art gallery and a café.

Total cost of the project is $325 million, including $66 million for the deconstruction and decontamination of the old building, a process which was completed just before the Thanksgiving holiday. The city is providing $139 million of the total, with the balance coming from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., according to a release.

Built as an office tower in the 1950s, the original 15-story Fiterman Hall was donated to the BMCC in 1993 by Miles and Shirley Fiterman. A $65-million renovation to convert Fiterman Hall for classroom use was nearly complete before the building was heavily damaged on 9/11; it was unoccupied at the time of the attacks and in fact was never used by the BMCC. The loss of the facility reduced the college’s classroom space by about one-third. In the interim, the college’s enrollment grew to more than twice the 10,000 students it was originally intended to accommodate.

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