It's 2024; Why is the New 2 World Trade Center Still Not Built?

The World Trade Center site has come a long way since it was brutally attacked on September 11, 2001. All newly completed towers are at least 90% leased. One World Observatory and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum receive many visitors daily, and hundreds of thousands of commuters use the Transportation Hub daily. Yet, despite the new Performing Arts Center opening in September 2023, the World Trade Center site is still incomplete. Both Two World Trade Center and Five World Trade Center still need to be fully built.

I often visit the World Trade Center site when I use the PATH station to get to/from New Jersey. While the complex does look great, I keep noticing the Vesey Street PATH entrance structure is filled with art murals and even has an outdoor bar. No, that is not the final setup. Instead, it is supposed to be where 2 World Trade Center is, the planned second tallest tower for the entire complex.

While a plan to build 5WTC is moving forward, 2WTC is still on hold. In this article, I will discuss why the new Two World Trade Center has yet to be built. I will explore the financial and political hurdles 2WTC has faced.

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About 2 World Trade Center

The new Two World Trade Center in New York City is supposed to be a striking and iconic addition to the Lower Manhattan skyline. It is a part of Daniel Libeskind’s World Trade Center master plan, designed to revitalize the area after the devastating 9/11 attacks. Norman Foster’s original architectural idea for the tower was chosen from a competition of proposals.

However, the construction of 2 World Trade Center has been plagued with controversy and delays. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, and Silverstein Properties, which leases the site, have disputed and struggled over the costs and responsibility of building the tower. At the same time, 2WTC is the only tower on the site that has yet to find commercial tenants. As a result, this building is still on hold, causing a noticeable dent in the new area.

WTC Master Plan by Daniel Libeskind

The new World Trade Center master plan created by architect Daniel Libeskind.
The new World Trade Center master plan created by architect Daniel Libeskind. (Photo by Daniel Libeskind’s Studio Libeskind)

The idea and concept for the new 2WTC are part of an overall approved master plan for the World Trade Center site. Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind came up with the master plan used for the site. In 2002, his master plan won a design competition by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. They are a joint New York City-State entity tasked with planning and coordinating all rebuilding and revitalization efforts of Lower Manhattan south of Houston Street.

Daniel Libeskind’s master plan for the World Trade Center site included many ideas and goals, such as:

  • Restoring the original street layout that was first cleared for the site. The planned restored streets include:
    • Greenwich Street
    • Fulton Street
    • Dey Street (partially)
    • Cortlandt Street (now Cortlandt Way)
  • An area dedicated to a memorial for the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack.
    • Includes a portion of the slurry wall that keeps the Hudson River from flooding the WTC complex to remain visible and exposed.
  • A 1,776-foot tall freedom tower directly north of the memorial that symbolizes the year of America’s independence.
  • Four more commercial towers around the memorial site.
    • Each takes up its own block with the reintegrated streetscape.
    • Their heights are slightly less than the preceding building.
  • Wedge of light concept
    • The ability of the glass facades of the new buildings to reflect light into the plaza every September 11th at two specific times:
      • 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hit the North Tower.
      • 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower collapsed.

Unfortunately, Daniel Libeskind did not become the official architect for the entire site. Politics, bureaucracy, and too many people with opinions plagued the efforts to rebuild the site. Only the site layout and building concepts remained. Other architects were hired to design each new building.

Architect Norman Foster 2006 Design

The original new 2 World Trade Center rendering designed by British architect Norman Foster with his firm Foster & Partners.
The original new 2 World Trade Center rendering designed by British architect Norman Foster with his firm Foster & Partners. (Photo courtesy of Foster & Partners and Silverstein Properties, via the Architect’s Newspaper)

In 2006, it was revealed that British architect Norman Foster and his firm Foster & Partners were hired to design the new 2 World Trade Center. His vision included a 78-story and 1,254 feet tall office tower with:

  • 143,000 total square feet of retail space as part of the Westfield World Trade Center mall.
    • 93,000 square feet of the retail space being at or above street level.
  • 60 floors of office space totaling 2.3 million square feet
  • Four trading floors for ideal financial tenants.
  • 65-foot high lobby.
  • A body comprising four blocks containing light-filled, column-free office floors rising to the 59th floor. The building will then slope toward the memorial as it continues to rise to the final 1,254 planned height.
    • Upper-sloped floors would provide multi-height function rooms with views of the memorial, Hudson and East Rivers, and the rest of New York City.
    • The downward-sloped roof will bring all four blocks together to feature four diamonds in one, pointing towards the memorial.

In a press release, here’s how architect Lord Norman Foster described his original vision for 2 WTC:

“We are pleased to unveil our design for Tower Two on the site of the World Trade Center, a building that symbolizes the renaissance of New York on the skyline while also re-establishing and reviving Greenwich Street at ground level. The crystalline top of the tower respects the master plan and bows down to the Memorial Park commemorating the tragic events that unfolded here. But it is also a powerful symbol of hope for the future. The dramatic height of the tower celebrates the spirit that has historically driven Manhattan to build tall, and the diamond-shaped top will be a crowning landmark on the city’s skyline.”

Building Responsibility: Port Authority vs. Silverstein Properties

The building of 2 WTC and the overall World Trade Center site would be a challenging task. Getting the projects underway took time due to constant infighting over whether to rebuild at all, what to build, and who was responsible for building. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Silverstein Properties, were central to these initial issues. A bi-state government agency, and a private real estate company, both owned and operated the World Trade Center site. Therefore, they were responsible for rebuilding the site after 9/11.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), founded in 1921 after approval by Congress, is an interstate agency between the New York City and North New Jersey metro area. They own and operate all major shipping ports, airports, bridges, and tunnels within the region. Their goal is to improve regional trade, commerce, and transportation.

The Port Authority also owned the World Trade Center site, a controversial idea proposed in the 1960s. The site’s concept, as known before 9/11 and as a basis for the new site, stems from:

  1. The Port Authority’s 1962 assumed control of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad to form the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) Corporation. This allowed the construction of the WTC on the west side of Lower Manhattan to include a PATH transit hub for New Jersey commuters into the city.
  2. The Port Authority’s desire to enter into the private real estate market to generate more revenue.
  3. The ability to avoid local zoning laws to build structures taller than the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world at the time.

Controversy

The idea for the site was met with tons of controversy. New Yorkers and private entities were not fond of, among other reasons:

  • The idea of private office space being subsidized with public money.
  • The iconic Empire State Building losing its world’s tallest building title.

Despite these concerns, the World Trade Center site began construction in 1968 and ended in 1973. However, it would not become profitable for the PA until the 1980s. To make matters worse, the Port Authority was found negligent in a lawsuit against the survivors of the February 1993 attack on the site. They were accused of not making the necessary security upgrades that could’ve prevented the attack.

To piggyback on the profitability issue, I want to mention that so far, the new World Trade Center site is not profitable. Part of the reason is the apparent fact that the site still needs to be finished. However, the buildings that are completed are generating less revenue than anticipated.

Silverstein Properties

In April 2001, the PANYNJ reached two agreements to lease the World Trade Center site:

  1. Silverstein Properties: a prominent New York City real estate developer.
  2. Westfield Corporation: an international shopping center operator.

While Westfield America’s lease only involved operating the underground retail space, Silverstein Properties’ lease involved operating the entire site. Both leases had a 99-year term. Also, at the time, they were worth an estimated $3.2 billion.

The Port Authority says that doing this would free up their resources to focus on improving the region’s transportation network. However, it is clear that the Port Authority leased out the World Trade Center site for three true reasons:

  1. Find a way to make consistent revenue.
  2. Increase the amount of office, retail, and other commercial tenants at the site.
  3. Relieve themselves from as much operating responsibility as possible.

Lucky for them, Larry Silverstein, owner of Silverstein Properties, was eager to add the WTC site to his portfolio. In many interviews, he’s alluded to his personal passion for the site and always wanted to be a part of it. His company already owns and operates 7WTC to the north. However, his goal was set on the entire complex.

Despite the deal almost falling apart, Larry and his team persevered. They proved to the Port Authority that they could afford to take over the site to ensure it thrives. Unfortunately, he did not have enough time to prove that, as the worst attack to hit the site and the country was only five months away from occurring.

Additional Key Players

One of the initial hurdles in getting the new World Trade Center project was too many people, entities, and groups involved. Everyone had their own idea of what should be done with the site and wanted to ensure their voices were heard.

For example, people like the mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, in addition to many survivors of 9/11, plus victims’ families, did not want new buildings at the site at all. Instead, they just wanted it to become a memorial, and that’s it.

However, Larry Silverstein wanted a newly constructed site with leasable buildings. This was not just because Larry had a personal passion for the site but because he and Westfield signed 99-year leases five months before the attacks. These leases were not yet finalized on 9/11, and no contingencies were set for potential situations like what occurred on that day.

To add fuel to the fire, those who agreed with Silverstein to rebuild the site with new buildings, such as many New Yorkers, wanted the twin towers rebuilt. However, other people, including Silverstein, wanted to use the opportunity to create a new modern site with different style buildings. Remember that the Port Authority still had an active train station at the site that needed to be in operation, no matter what.

Compromise Master Plan

The creation of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation by former New York Governor George E. Pataki and Daniel Libeskind’s winning master plan was all part of a compromise. First, it addressed a common theme among all parties’ opinions that there should be space at the site for a memorial, specifically within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. Next, it satisfied Silverstein’s concerns for new commercial space so that he and Westfield could fulfill their lease obligations. Finally, the Port Authority could continue to operate the site as a train station and commercial center.

Port Authority vs. Silverstein

Now that a master plan for the new World Trade Center site was finalized, the last major hurdle was who would pay for it. The master plan alone, not factoring in the cost of each building’s final design, already looked like a multi-billion dollar undertaking. This was money that neither the Port Authority nor Silverstein Properties had or were willing to pay for on their own. Thus, the showdown begins!

The Port Authority felt that Silverstein Properties should foot most of the costs since they were operating the site. At the same time, Silverstein already built 7WTC on their own, so they should build the rest of the site. However, while Silverstein was more than willing to get the site built ASAP, he didn’t think his firm should cover the majority of the cost because the Port Authority still owned the site.

This infighting and negotiating over who was paying for the construction of the site would go on for months. The impacts of the Great Recession of 2008 only made this worse. At one point, an idea was on the table to scrap 2WTC, 3WTC, and 5WTC altogether.

Building Compromise

The new World Trade Center site with the original 2006 design for 2 WTC.
The new World Trade Center site with the original 2006 design for 2 WTC. (Photo by DBOX and Joe Woolhead via YIMBY)

However, eventually, all parties involved in the negotiations settled their differences. Throughout construction, the following plans have been in effect:

  • The Port Authority would build 1WTC, 5WTC, the Oculus Transportation Hub, the Vehicle Security Center, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  • Silverstein Properties would build and manage 2WTC, 3WTC, and 4WTC in exchange for Liberty Bonds to help cover as much of the construction costs as possible. Bonds needed for 2WTC and 3WTC are contingent upon Silverstein finding an anchor tenant for each building.
  • The Port Authority would help build the basement floors of all buildings along Greenwich Street and only the portion of the first floor of 2WTC that houses the entrances and mechanical equipment to the Transit Hub.
  • The Port Authority would also help build the first seven floors of 3WTC. Additional funding will be provided to help continue construction if Silverstein Properties finds an anchor tenant before the currently agreed-upon work is complete.
  • When 1WTC is complete, all leasing and other operating obligations will be transferred to the Durst Organization, a prominent NYC property management company. Westfield will manage the retail spaces within all buildings.
  • The Port Authority will be the anchor tenant for 4WTC. The City and State of New York will also lease office space there.

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2WTC Construction Timeline

2 World Trade Center under construction on April 30, 2011.
2 World Trade Center under construction on April 30, 2011. (Photo by Patapsco via spectre000 on SkyscraperCity)

Construction of 2 World Trade Center technically started in 2008. During this time, the ground for this building, along with the Transit Hub, 3WTC, and 4WTC, was finally dug up to form an “East Bathtub” and make way for the foundations and basement levels of all four buildings along the planned restored Greenwich Street. However, all of the infighting and negotiations mentioned earlier quickly halted construction.

Construction finally restarted in 2010. The foundations were finally laid, and steel beams and the inner concrete floor were going up. The basement floors for 2WTC, the Transit Hub, and 3WTC were finally being constructed after years of delays. 4WTC’s basement floors were already structurally complete, and the building of the rest of the tower was well underway.

It was actually during this time period in which almost every building planned for the new World Trade Center site was under construction. The only projects not under construction were the Performing Arts Center and 5WTC. The Performing Arts Center could not begin until the temporary PATH station was demolished (after the completion of the new station) and the exit ramps for the Vehicle Security Center were built. 5WTC could not begin until the badly damaged from 9/11 Deutsche Bank building was demolished first.

Either way, from 2010 until 2012, the entire site was finally under construction. However, unfortunately, by 2012, that site-wide construction momentum would end when 2WTC had to stop again.

Why is 2 World Trade Center On Hold?

Two World Trade Center construction is on hold because of two main reasons:

  1. Lack of funding
  2. No anchor tenant to obtain financing.

Since Silverstein could not use the same deal put in place for 3WTC with 2WTC, he could not keep construction going once the basement levels were complete. To this day, he still has not been able to restart construction.

Lack of Adequate Funding

2 World Trade Center construction progress as of 2023.
2 World Trade Center construction progress as of 2023. (Photo by Murphpics, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Lack of adequate funding has always been an issue for not just 2WTC but the entire World Trade Center site. Larry Silverstein tried negotiating for more help and money from the Port Authority, but they would not commit to financing more towers. Silverstein also tried to file more insurance claims, obtain more bonds, and even sue more entities with either direct or indirect ties to the events of 9/11. However, none of these efforts were successful enough to cover the costs for 2WTC, 3WTC, and 4WTC altogether.

Finally, with the aftermath of the 2008 recession, it was (and in many cases, still is) just too risky for banks to finance commercial buildings. There must be proof that there will be a swift return on the risk. Unfortunately, Silverstein could not prove a return in a timely manner for lenders to fund the tower.

No Anchor Tenant

For Silverstein to obtain financing to build 2WTC and 3WTC, he has to find an anchor tenant. An anchor tenant is a large and often well-known business occupying significant space in a commercial building. They are often the first tenant to sign a lease, usually at a discounted rate, and are crucial to the property’s short- and long-term success. Not only would they help prove to lenders that the property is in demand, but they would also help attract more tenants.

Unfortunately, Silverstein has been unable to find an anchor tenant to occupy a large enough portion of 2WTC to secure funding to build the tower. Despite his “if you build it, they will come” mindset, it was not enough to convince lenders to provide him the funding needed to continue building the tower beyond its basement floors.

Potential tenants have entered and left the negotiation table, one of which I will go into more detail in a few. However, there has not been a commercial tenant willing to seriously consider the tower because of:

  1. The continued phobia of the World Trade Center site post 9/11
  2. The increased risk that is associated with commercial real estate as more operations and jobs are being moved overseas or replaced online.
  3. Increase in rents in New York City
  4. Increase in competition from other commercial properties throughout Manhattan, either completed, underway or proposed, such as:
    1. Hudson Yards (completed)
    2. Manhattan West (completed)
    3. One Vanderbilt (completed)
    4. Midtown East zoning changes to accommodate more modern office buildings.

No 3WTC-Like Construction Deal

3 World Trade Center under construction on April 30, 2013.
3 World Trade Center under construction on April 30, 2013. (Photo by towerpower123 on Flickr)

As mentioned earlier, Larry Silverstein has maintained a mindset of “if you build it, they will come” throughout this entire ordeal of building 2WTC. However, this mindset would not work for 2WTC, as it did for 3WTC, which got a much better construction deal. Also mentioned earlier, Silverstein worked out a deal with the Port Authority to help build the first seven stories of 3WTC.

While the first five stories were critical for the neighboring Transit Hub, the additional two floors included were two of the four planned trading floors. Getting these floors built was crucial for marketing to potential anchor tenants. If no anchor tenant is found, 3WTC would remain a seven-story stump, just two stories more than what the Port Authority wanted once they realized how expensive the entire new World Trade Center site would be.

GroupM as the Anchor Tenant

This idea of only building 3WTC’s first seven floors until an anchor tenant is found proved to be a good one. Right as construction on these first seven floors was approaching the finish line, and by the finish line, I mean the glass facade around the building was almost complete. That anchor tenant is GroupM, a world-leading media company.

In 2013, GroupM signed a deal to lease about 516,000 square feet in 3 World Trade Center. This lease included the first nine floors of the 80-floor tower. The first four of those nine floors were initially intended to be trading floors for financial firms because they had more floor space and square footage. However, it was becoming clear that financial firms were no longer interested in being in Lower Manhattan. As a result, GroupM was able and willing to take these larger trading floors for themselves, even though they are a media firm.

The goal of GroupM’s lease at 3 World Trade Center is to consolidate their 2,400 employees from several offices throughout Midtown into the new space upon completion of the building. Since moving into 3WTC in 2018, their lease has been successful for them and Silverstein Properties. In fact, so successful that by 2016, GroupM signed a new lease for an additional 170,000 square feet of space, four more floors.

GroupM’s lease was successful for Silverstein Properties because it was large enough to secure the financing needed to complete the construction of 3 World Trade Center. With the tower now complete, it did not take too long for the rest of it to fill up with more tenants. Now within 90% leased, 3WTC tenants include:

Why Only Building a Few Floors First Worked

Silverstein’s mindset of “if you build it, they will come” only works if you actually build something. Even though only seven of the planned 80 floors were built, it was still enough to market the tower to potential tenants. Thankfully, 3 World Trade Center’s physical design is straightforward for the entire building, except for the structure’s base (lobby, retail, mechanical, and trading floors).

Even if GroupM had not taken the five trading floors and only the first few office floors, they would have still been able to make a decision. Seventy-five percent of the ‘office floor space’ was still available to see in what was being temporarily built, thanks to the building’s north, south, and east sides.

Unfortunately, Not Implementing this Plan for 2WTC is Why it is Still Stalled

Like 3WTC, 2 World Trade Center’s physical design was consistent throughout the entire building, except the base (again, lobby, retail, mechanical, and trading floors). Unfortunately, only a portion of the lobby was partially built. To make matters worse, if you look at the photo, you will see that although you can identify the size of the potential building:

  1. The emergency staircase structures for the basement and base level floors.
  2. All of the mechanical equipment that occupies the space.

Regardless of market conditions and industry preferences, 2 World Trade Center cannot find a tenant because there is nothing to physically show them. The way the structure is currently built so far is not marketable to potential tenants. Considering that it has been several years and counting with no tenant, finding one becomes even more challenging because of the tower’s bad reputation.

What makes this worse is that tower 3, in addition to tower 4 thanks to the Port Authority, filled up fairly quickly. In fact, both of these towers achieved within 90 percent occupancy faster than One World Trade Center managed by the Durst Organization. Silverstein hoped this leasing momentum would pass on to 2WTC despite barely being built past the lobby. However, unfortunately, it just is not.

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Attempts to Restart Construction

Silverstein Properties kept trying to find an anchor tenant while pursuing other ways to obtain financing for 2 World Trade Center, with or without a tenant. He’s tried filing a lot of lawsuits to recoup money for damages from the 9/11 attacks.

When a potential tenant finally came to the table and appeared serious, Silverstein even hired a new architect for the tower to accommodate this ONE potential tenant’s needs. However, NONE of these efforts worked. His litigation efforts were not enough to secure financing for 2WTC without a tenant. Also, despite getting the entire building redesigned, the one potential tenant he had still backed out of a deal.

Insurance Lawsuits

The events of 9/11 and the impacts of the aftermath sparked an avalanche of lawsuits and settlements. Larry Silverstein was involved in some of those lawsuits, specifically the ones that would result in large payouts, because he had three skyscrapers to build that were pivotal to the redevelopment of the entire World Trade Center site.

His first legal victory came in December 2004, when a New York jury agreed with his argument that his firm should be compensated for the destruction of the Twin Towers as two separate events. Nine insurance firms were involved in the lawsuit and owed him the maximum payout of $1.1 billion for each tower. However, additional insurance firms were involved that could treat the entire attack as a single occurrence. Either way, Silverstein, in addition to the Port Authority, won big, yet it still was not enough to build the entire World Trade Center site.

By 2007, seven insurers involved in the lawsuits agreed to pay an additional $2 billion to Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority. This settlement resolved all outstanding claims from the 9/11 attacks. Therefore, all litigation attempts with insurance companies were done. Silverstein would have to find other entities to sue for more money to rebuild the World Trade Center.

When construction for 2WTC wrapped in 2012, the pressure was on for Silverstein to find alternative methods to finance the tower if he could not find an anchor tenant as soon as possible. His last litigation attempt would be against the major airlines whose planes were used in the attacks. However, those attempts have been rejected.

21st Century Fox and News Corp

In 2015, three years after construction halted, signs of life for 2 World Trade Center began to show. It was announced that 21st Century Fox and News Corp expressed interest in moving into the building. Separate media companies controlled by Rupert Murdoch signed letters of intent to lease about 1.3 million square feet of space. However, some caveats with this deal had to be addressed.

For this deal to finalize, the 2 World Trade Center building must accommodate Fox and News Corp’s specific needs. They include studios, newsrooms, and open floor plans with higher ceiling heights. Unfortunately, the current architectural plans for the building could not fully accommodate these specific physical needs. Maybe the four trading floors, but not the rest of the structure that would account for most of the 1.3 million square feet. 

2015 Redesign

The first 2 World Trade Center redesign by architect Bjarke Ingels in 2015.
The first 2 World Trade Center redesign by architect Bjarke Ingels in 2015. (Photo by DBOX courtesy of BIG, via ArchDaily)

The original design for 2 World Trade Center that was already underway was initially conceived primarily for financial tenants. However, Silverstein was growing desperate to finally complete this tower, whatever it would take. So, despite the foundation and basement levels for the original design already being completed, he was willing to entertain the idea of redesigning the building to meet Murdoch’s needs.

The Fox and News Corp. announcement to potentially move into 2WTC also included the news that Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm will redesign the building. The most striking feature of his design was the tower’s unique sloping profile, which would have set it apart from all other buildings in the area. The tower was envisioned as a series of seven stacked, tapering boxes, each with its own lushly landscaped terrace.

In addition to its striking profile, Ingels’ design included a large public plaza at the tower’s base, which would have served as a gathering space for visitors and locals alike. The plaza was designed to be a vibrant and welcoming public space with room for public events and performances.

With a height of 1,340 feet, the building would have offered 2.8 million square feet of office space. However, it was met with controversy, from public backlash to added building complexity and costs.

Public Backlash

When Ingels’ 2 World Trade Center redesign was unveiled, it was met with mixed reviews from the public. Most reviews were negative; people did not understand the new building’s idea, concept, or look. The idea of sloping stacked boxes was uncomfortable for people. Also, many architecture enthusiasts thought the tower would be an eyesore, especially from specific vantage points throughout the city, such as Brooklyn.

Another point worth noting is the general public has (without truly realizing it) adopted the original diamond slope design by Norman Foster. Even from my own observations over the years, Foster’s 2WTC design has been featured in:

  • Various NYC subway marketing signage
  • Movies such as:
    • Babylon A.D.
    • Eden of the East
    • Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (well, kind of)
    • Oblivion

To drive my point home, the general public had already expected Foster’s design for 2WTC, to the point where it was being referenced in pop culture ahead of its potential completion. However, when it was announced that the building was redesigned, the reception was not as warm as developers expected. Heck, even Larry Silverstein was skeptical about the design, but he went along with it anyway so the building could finally be completed.

Build Complexity and Cost

Another reason why Ingels’ redesign for 2WTC was met with hesitancy and poor reception was because of how complex building it would be and the costs to do so. As mentioned earlier, the foundation and basement levels for Foster’s 2WTC design are already built. At the same time, they are currently operational to support the neighboring PATH transit hall, and the retail tenants are already operating in their spaces.

Ingels’ design does not take into account what is already built. For it to be built, the current foundations and basement levels must be altered to support it. This would cost more money, and many questioned whether or not it should be spent. This added complexity would have ballooned the price tag of the tower to $4 billion, beating One WTC’s cost of $3.8 billion.

Remember that One WTC’s price tag earned the building the title of the “World’s Most Expensive Office Building.” However, understand that One WTC’s price tag was so high because of the enhanced structure, fire, and security features implemented in its design and construction. On the other hand, Two WTC’s ballooned price tag was really to cater to one potential tenant.

Other WTC Redesigns

2WTC was not the only building in the new World Trade Center site that underwent a design change. However, it did go through the most and worst design changes. This upset me because the original design was the best out of all the planned towers for the new site.

For example, 1WTC spire and base designs were changed. Also, 3WTC experienced a minor height reduction, a loss of its originally planned four steel spires, and steel cross bracings along the building’s east and west-facing sides.

Murdoch Pulls Out

On January 16, 2016, it was reported that Murdoch pulled out of the deal to move 21st Century Fox and News Corp. into 2 WTC. The two media companies chose to remain at their current locations in Midtown Manhattan. No specific details ever emerged on how the deal fell through and what led Murdoch to keep his media companies where they are.

Honestly, this decision was the best. First, Fox and News Corp, as media entities with a declining reputation over the years, would not have made them a suitable tenant for the site. Second, Bjarke Ingels design left with Murdoch. However, more on this in the next section. Just know that his stacked boxes with landscaped terraces idea was recycled, altered, and used for The Spiral at Hudson Yards in Midtown.

Current Status of 2WTC (As of February 2024)

As of February 2024, 2 World Trade Center is still not built. Only portions of the first floor and the four basement levels are built and in operation. There are still no potential anchor tenants announced to lease a large amount of space. The impacts of COVID-19 on commercial real estate have only made leasing 2 WTC even more difficult. The only updates available for 2WTC are that Norman Foster has been re-hired as the architect, and another redesign has leaked.

Norman Foster Rehired as Architect

When the potential tenant deals with Murdoch’s Fox and News Corp. fell through, so did Ingels’ redesign. At first, Silverstein considered both Foster’s and Ingels’ designs, with the final design being left to whatever potential anchor tenant he found. However, eventually, he announced that he would try to build 2 WTC “on spec” or without an anchor tenant because of the strong leasing activity at the other WTC towers.

To me, when I read “on spec,” I assume it means as already planned. Since the foundation and basement levels of Foster’s design are already built, “on spec” means that his design would move forward for the rest of the building, right? Well, not necessarily. In January 2020, Silverstein announced that he is working with Foster to update the original design to accommodate office tenants’ changing needs. More on that design change in a few, but first, we must discuss 2020 for obvious reasons.

COVID-19 Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the commercial real estate industry in New York City, particularly in the signing of new leases. Due to the pandemic, many businesses have had to close their doors or reduce their workforce, which has decreased demand for office space. As a result, landlords, including Silverstein, are finding it increasingly difficult to sign new leases.

Moreover, many companies are opting for remote work, which has reduced the need for office space. The pandemic has also accelerated the trend towards flexible work arrangements, such as co-working spaces, which provide a more cost-effective solution for businesses.

In addition, the pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in the market and for 2 WTC. Many businesses are hesitant to commit to long-term leases due to the uncertainty of the future. For Silverstein to attract new tenants to 2WTC while also keeping his current tenants at the other WTC towers, he had to become more flexible in their leasing terms, offering shorter lease agreements and more favorable terms.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the commercial real estate industry in New York City, particularly in the signing of new leases. While the industry is slowly recovering, it will likely take some time before things return to pre-pandemic levels. This way, the chances for a potential anchor tenant for 2 WTC can increase again.

2022 Redesign

Norman Foster's leaked proposed 2022 potential redesign for 2 World Trade Center.
Norman Foster’s leaked proposed 2022 potential redesign for 2 World Trade Center. (Photo by CrossingLights, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Despite leaks of one version, almost official (I think) renderings of Norman Foster’s redesign for 2 World Trade Center were unveiled at the start of 2022. As you can see, the diamond crown design was not retained. In fact, most of Ingels’ design concepts have been kept. The main difference worth noting is Foster’s redesign, which at least accommodates the foundations and basement levels of his original design that is already completed.

Foster’s redesign for 2 WTC includes:

  • Multiple landscaped setbacks and terraces.
  • Four offset roof parapets (instead of sloped diamonds) as green roofs.
  • Building slopes against the 9/11 memorial instead of toward it.
  • The ground floor footprint will remain unchanged from the original design.
  • Gray monolithic strips throughout the facade are similar to neighboring 3WTC.

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Final Thoughts

To conclude this article, I want to share how I personally feel about Two World Trade Center not being complete after all of these years. Simply put it, I’m disappointed! Now, I do not have any personal connections to the September 11 attacks. I did not lose any family or friends in the attack. However, one, I still sympathize with the victims’ families, and two, I do have a personal passion for New York City, real estate, and real estate development.

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site was the very first significant construction project I kept myself updated on throughout my teenage years. It is part of what inspired me to want to get into real estate and development, aside from modeling and content creation. It is also how I was able to go in-depth in this article.

However, I am disappointed in the fact that I low-key went all through high school, even college and beyond, watching a significant construction project take forever to build and still not be deemed complete. This is embarrassing because aside from the outcomes of the two wars 9/11 got our country into; this does show our adversaries that we are incapable of rebuilding and fully recovering from what was unfairly destroyed and taken away from us. They care more about destroying America’s economic power, which the World Trade Center symbolized.

I genuinely wish all parties involved with rebuilding kept this in mind before letting this project drag on. They can say they have, but if that were really true, this site would’ve been completed by 2021 at the latest, including 2WTC.

Vision Gone Too Far and Executed Too Poorly

I think the vision for the new World Trade Center site has gone too far and executed too poorly. I do not blame Daniel Libeskind’s master plan, either. If you scroll back up to his master plan, you will see that he didn’t even call for a site with at least four 900+ feet supertall skyscrapers, only one. The original WTC site only had two of those, the Twin Towers, out of six buildings. Libeskind wanted at least four towers to help replenish the office space lost in the attacks. Still, only one had to be a supertall skyline-defining skyscraper for obvious reasons.

There were just too many people involved with this rebuilding process with their own ideas and authority to push their ideas to the forefront. As a result, Libeskind lost his standing on his own idea. The final outcome took forever to solidify because everyone involved in pushing Libeskind to the side (intentionally and unintentionally) just had to somehow get their way. Worst of all, amid all of the (unnecessary in most cases) debating, people only bothered to think about costs after a final design plan was agreed upon and it was time to start construction and determine who was paying for what.

It’s just an embarrassing mess, to be honest.

By the way, I understand the reasons, but 1WTC still should not have cost $3.8 billion. Also, there is absolutely no excuse why the transit hub’s cost ballooned past $4 billion.

Build the Original 2WTC Diamond Design

I genuinely think Silverstein Properties should build the original diamond design for 2WTC for the following reasons:

  1. It will prevent the need for serious structural alterations to the foundation and basement levels already built and in operation.
  2. The general public, including myself, likes that design and has already accepted it into popular culture. Anybody who says the design is outdated because it was unveiled in 2006 is just showing their inner architecture nerd, and is irrelevant. The general public doesn’t care about if the design of a building is “outdated.” Unless that building is from the ’60s and ‘70s. The fact that 2WTC is a primarily glass structure makes it timeless no matter how its steel structure shapes it to physically look when complete.

The only aspect of the original 2 World Trade Center design that is actually “outdated” is it being configured to primarily serve financial tenants. However, updating the building to accommodate media and other industries while keeping the original diamond design does not seem as hard as the developers involved try to make it out to be. The building is not built past the first floor (barely), so how is it not possible?

If accommodating more types of tenants means increasing the ceiling height for each floor or finding ways to fit some terraces, then the developers should explore those options now. If a random skyscraper forum contributor can do it (see photo), then it is no excuse for Foster or Silverstein not to do so. Seriously, I thank Skcr from SkyscraperCity for taking the time to create this because this is a good idea.

An ideal 2 World Trade Center redesign that includes Foster's original diamond roof and current possible body.
An ideal 2 World Trade Center redesign that includes Foster’s original diamond roof and current possible body. (Photo by Skcr from SkyscraperCity)

Conclusion – Get it Done Already

As mentioned, can we get the World Trade Center site done with construction once and for all? Seriously! It’s already bad enough that it’s looking less likely that 2WTC will be done by the 25th anniversary of 9/11. However, let’s not wait until the 30th or god-forbid 50th anniversary to see a completed site finally.

Besides, with all due respect to Larry Silverstein, the man is getting older and older. For him to still be alive and in good health is a blessing. I hope and pray I get to live as long as he is and still have good health to be actively involved in my empire’s projects. Seriously, it’s inspiring. Larry Silverstein and the company he built are inspiring to me. I hope to one day have a real estate company as successful as his. That is why I hope and pray he gets to live long enough to see and experience a completed World Trade Center site. From the bottom of my heart, I do.

For the sake of the victims of 9/11, their families, the City of New York, the United States of America, and the world, PLEASE, just get 2 World Trade Center (as close to initially designed as possible) and the entire WTC site done and over with already.

The new World Trade Center site on a sunny summer day.
The new World Trade Center site on a sunny summer day. Still missing 2WTC. (Photo taken by Tyler Jurelle)

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This post was originally published on: 12/12/2023

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