- Associated Press - Thursday, January 31, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - A performing arts center planned for the World Trade Center site got a financial boost Thursday that improves the chances of the languishing project to begin construction in four years.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. approved $1 million to hire staff or consultants to conduct research to determine the cost of building the center, said Maggie Boepple, director of the center.

The approval means that construction could begin in 2017, with a projected opening in 2019, she said.

“This is a push-off for the project,” Boepple said.

And it’s a boost for a neighborhood reborn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

“This is really important for the economic revitalization of Lower Manhattan,” said Julie Menin, former chair of the neighborhood’s Community Board 1 who helped businesses there recover.

“It will bring jobs to the community and help small businesses,” said Menin, who serves on the arts center board. “We can look to cities like San Francisco and Miami that have invested in performing arts centers, and see what that does economically for a city.”

The LMDC had withheld the money in September, citing concerns over the project’s cost and fundraising ability.

Boepple and a board of directors named last year have raised $25 million for the project.

The LMDC, a city-state corporation created to coordinate long-term plans for the trade center site, has appropriated another $99 million for the construction and design below grade. The above-ground construction will be funded with private money through fundraising, she said.

The board has addressed the concern over cost by scaling back the square footage of the project, Boepple said.

“We’ve taken out things our theater consultants told us were not essential, like lots of offices,” she said. “It’s easier and cheaper to rent offices in the surrounding area. We also took out a floor that would have been a rental floor for parties.”

She said the adjustments “bring the cost down to something that is realistic.”

“I don’t know what the final number will be but it will be money that we believe we can raise,” said Boepple, adding that it will be below the initial estimate of $400 million to $500 million.

Architect Frank Gehry was retained in 2006 to develop a world-class facility that could host and produce a range of performing arts.

Story Continues →