Keep Your Eye on the Oculus (UPDATE)

East Coast, Other
Thursday, January 29, 2009
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Should I stay or should I go now? That remains to be seen.

Should I stay or should I go now? That remains to be seen.

Even before the recession hobbled the MTA, the fate of the Fulton Street Transit Center was much in doubt. There had been talk of simply capping the site with a park, or building Grimshaw’s pavillion but without Jamie Carpenter’s signature oculus.

But according to a report this morning on WNYC, the MTA has decided to go forward with an above-ground building, though it could be sans oculus. And, for better or worse, there will be more retail opportunities (read: a mall), which, given Richard Ravitch’s contention that the MTA lacks a consistent, reliable funding stream, might not be such a bad idea.

The WNYC report is not online, though confirmation from MTA prez Lee Sander, as well as the news that it will cost between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, is. Furthermore, per WNYC, “Sander would not say what revisions have been made to the hub’s design.” But a source at Grimshaw wrote in an email that not much has changed–yet. “We are still the architect and the oculus still exists.”

In an interesting twist, the Post is now reporting that the remaining $497 required to complete the project will come from the Obama stimulus package, as well as more vague design pronouncements:

“People have been worried that we were going to leave a hole in the ground or construct a simple subway entrance instead of the iconic structure that the community was expecting,” Sander said. “I am here to tell you that this is not the case.”

The original designs of the above-ground glass structure called for an oculus that would reflect light into the station. The plans were later simplified to only include skylights.

No word yet from Jamie Carpenter, though the MTA press office is hard at work on filling us in. For a reminder of what the project may or may not look like, check NY1′s story from Monday.

Update: In an email, Carpenter writes, “We are of course hopeful but I have no current information.” Meanwhile, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan shed slightly more light on the project. “At this stage, we’ve reached a concept but no new designs yet,” he said, adding “A three-story glass structure is about as specific as I could get.”

In the Times, Sander said pretty much the same thing, as well as making a strong case for its inclusion in the stimulus plan:

“The pavilion has to be many things to many people,” Mr. Sander said, referring to the glass structure. “It has to be a building of vibrant design with as much new retail activity as possible.” He called it “a highly visible portal to a modern transportation complex.”

[...]

“The project needs to be finished,” he said. “It does at this point appear to meet the criteria that Congress has put out, and from an economic stimulus standpoint, in terms of job creation, it certainly seems appropriate.”

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