Frank Gehry’s World Trade Center Performing Arts Center Facing Many, Many Challenges

Architecture, Development, East
Friday, March 28, 2014
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Gehry's Plan for the Performing Arts Center. (Courtesy Gehry Parners)

Gehry’s Plan for the Performing Arts Center. (Courtesy Gehry Parners)

As the key elements of the World Trade Center site inch closer to completion, it looks like the Frank Gehry–designed Performing Arts Center might be left behind. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Center faces incredibly daunting logistical and financial roadblocks that could doom the project entirely. So, where to start? With the money, of course.

Last year, construction costs for the project were pegged around $470 million, $155 million of which will be covered by federal funds. The fledgling non-profit behind the Center must find ways to make up the significant difference. This is even more daunting than it seems considering that the non-profit ran a deficit last year and owes $300,000 to the 9/11 Memorial foundation.

The organization hopes to secure federal funds for the Center, but doing so will be especially difficult if they don’t have Mayor de Blasio’s support. It’s not clear if the mayor supports this project in the first place. And making matters even worse, de Blasio has not appointed a Cultural-Affairs Commissioner—a key player in the Center’s future.

Putting the money issue aside for a moment, it’s also not clear what the actual building will look like. The Journal reported that a decade after Gehry was selected to design the center, “his involvement in the project is now unclear.”

Assuming that de Blasio—and his yet-to-be-named Cultural-Affairs commissioner—come out in favor of this plan and that the non-profit manages to secure the necessary funding and that Gehry comes on board to help the whole thing move forward, even if all of that happens, just building the center will be incredibly difficult.

Someone familiar with the complexity of the World Trade Center site told the WSJ, “[The Performing Arts Center] would have to be constructed like a 3-D puzzle around infrastructure including PATH train tracks, a vehicle ramp, emergency subway exits and ventilation ducts that would come up through the arts center to more than 40 feet above street level.” And that’s not all, “the arts center would require extensive soundproofing to mitigate the subway vibrations.”

Despite all of the obstacles—and there are even more—some in New York’s art community are cautiously optimistic about the plan. They believe that if the funding can be secured, and a clear vision presented,  the center may have a fighting chance.

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