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Architects question WTC plans.

The six urban design approaches and concept plans presented by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority represent a very good starting point for public discussion about the rebuilding process. The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects participated in these discussions since last October as a founding participant in New York New Visions, a pro bono coalition of 21 architecture, engineering, planning, and design organizations. The AIA New York Chapter recognizes the extraordinary effort that went into the preparation and explanation of the six options that indicate significantly different ways of looking at the memorial to those who perished at the World Trade Center.

Questions raised by New York New Visions in regard to the six options include:

* Is the program of 11 million SF of office space and 600,000 SF of commercial space based on a comprehensive economic and land use analysis?

* Is each concept site plan integrated with coordinated transportation plans and needs?

* How does each concept plan integrate with the neighborhood, with Manhattan and with the region? Are these truly comprehensive master plans?

* How does each concept plan integrate with the memorial process?

* Did the architects and planners working with the Port Authority and LMDC consider a sufficiently broad range of urban planning solutions? Are there really six schemes or is there one scheme with six variations?

These are not merely rhetorical questions but suggest areas of further discussion and analysis. The differences between the six options are truly significant in regard to aspects of surface transportation, vehicular and pedestrian movement, and the disposition of open space on the 16-acre site. This is commendable given the importance of these plan elements and the statement made that such design components are potentially interchangeable elements leading to other schemes with different configurations.

Significant elements, however, are missing from the options. Missing from all six concept plans are significant variations in the location of inter-modal public transit connections. Missing from all six options is consideration of on-site location of housing.

Missing from all six approaches is the recognition that building less than 11 million SF of office space on site is justifiable both from an urban design perspective, as well as from that of a qualitative approach to building design.

There are important differences among the plans that provide a basis for ongoing discussion and development of the core ideas. The questions raised are as meaningful in this regard as are the answers:

* Why not more vehicular streets?

* Why not consider building commercial office space above West Street?

* Why not show housing as part of a mixed-use development on-site?

* Does the memorial location become an isolated parcel or is it incorporated in the site planning?

* Are pedestrian streets intended for daytime shoppers or for enhancement of the 24-hour, 7-day urban vitality stressed in the LMDC blueprint?

These questions indicate that the public participation in the planning process does not begin and end with a town hall meeting. Continuing input on economic development issues, urban design quality, building height, and site coverage is essential and can offer additional options.

We call upon the Port Authority, the LMDC, and their professional advisors to continue their commendable efforts and to produce additional concepts and approaches that respond to these concerns.
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Title Annotation:World Trade Center
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 7, 2002
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