It is an often asked question: Why has it taken so long to rebuild the World Trade Center? And will what is planned be built and actually succeed as a real estate venture? Fox News' Shepard Smith sat down with Janno Lieber, president of World Trade Center Properties, for a straight forward conversation about these very issues.
The World Trade Center site was leased to Silverstein Properties, for whom Lieber works, just six weeks before the 9-11 attacks. At present, the site is being rebuilt by three separate entities. One World Trade Center is the responsibility of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., which owns the land. The National 9-11 Memorial and Museum is another construction project. And the Silverstein company is planning three office towers for the WTC site: WTC 2, 3 and 4. Also planned is a major rail station designed by Santiago Calatrava, which is also a Port Authority project.
The nature of the site means all parties are coordinating their work and the below-ground infrastructure for these projects is interlaced. The analogy one engineer used: it’s like a game of “Pick Up Sticks,” you can’t move one part without impacting another.
JANNO LIEBER: The first job is to get it built, to restore this great area of New York, to make it better than it was before; and if we get that done I'm sure the city and the country are going to profit in the long run.
SHEPARD SMITH: You said "if" because it truly is an "if." But will it really?
LIEBER: The only question, and it's a fair question, is how soon will it all be finished? The plan that we have now calls for three of the five office towers to be completed by late 2014.
SMITH: How realistic is that?
LIEBER: That is real. Three out of the four World Trade Centers are going to be built in a definite timeline.
SMITH: And as this building goes up and we look at the economy the way it is now, how much thought goes into, "Who are we going to put in there and how are we going to get 'em here?"
LIEBER: People have been uncertain about the economy, especially in the last two or three years. What really gives all of us a lot of confidence about the future of this complex, about the future World Trade Center, is the fact that New York really needs new office buildings. If we're going to compete with cities like London and Hong Kong and Shanghai and Dubai for first class jobs for Americans, we're going to have to put up new, high tech office spaces.
SMITH: How many of your prospective tenants are concerned they're going to have a hard time getting employees there when they have friends who died there?
LIEBER: When we started getting new tenants at the World Trade Center, there were some employees who had questions about what it meant to work in an office building, a tall office building that had the address World Trade Center, and we did tours with thousands of new employees. And they came in, they saw the building, they heard about the special safety features, they saw how exciting it was to be in a new green space, and they all stayed.
SMITH: We've been down here a long time now and one of the things we haven't talked about is why it's taken so long.
LIEBER: First of all, the most important thing that took some time that needed to happen is there needed to be an open debate about what ought to be rebuilt at the World Trade Center, and people needed an opportunity to get out their views and ultimately come together, and that is what happened. Most important, we'd have an amazing memorial to those who were lost and what took place on 9/11.
SMITH: It was also tricky, as it always is, dealing with so many different governments, with governments changing. I think you dealt with four governors on one side of the (Hudson) river and four governors on the other side of the river?
LIEBER: I think it is four and four or four and five, I can't, I lost count at some point. Yeah, it is a feature in the real world; governments do change. We had state government in New York, state government in New Jersey, city government in New York, changes at the Port Authority, the multi-state agency that owns the land at the World Trade Center. All of those things had an impact.
LIEBER: Every project on the World Trade Center is under construction now. This is the first time that we have been able to say that since 9/11.
To see the latest segment in the Rise of Freedom series watch Fox Report with Shepard Smith, tonight at 7 p.m. ET. You can catch up on all segments by visiting www.foxnews.com/freedom. To learn even more about the work and progress you can also visit these sites www.wtc.com, www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress and www.national911memorial.org
Martin Hinton is Executive Producer for the Fox News Reporting Specials and Documentary Unit as well as Political Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @MartinFHinton.