WTC Site Master Planning Team Selected
by Tess Taylor
Questions about the next stage in determining the future of the World Trade Center site in New York City were apparently resolved on May 22, 2002 when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) announced that it had chosen the team of Beyer Blinder Belle and Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop a master plan for reconstruction. Beyer Blinder Belle, best known for its restoration of Grand Central Terminal, was one of 15 architecture and design firms that offered bids to the LMDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The planning team is charged with providing six first-phase options for land use, transit, and neighborhood redevelopment by July, three second-phase options by November, and a final option by January 2003. During this time, the LMDC will conduct community meetings to solicit public comment.
The selection ends a process that began a month ago when the LMDC, with little public notice, sent requests for planning bids to about 20 firms. The process raised eyebrows, and in response, a second RFP was issued. It, too, has been criticized for framing highly specific terms of entry that functionally exclude all but the city's largest firms. Defenders of the move assert that only large firms would have the necessary resources to complete a project of this magnitude.
By Monday, May 20, the LMDC announced that it was choosing between two firms, Beyer Blinder Belle and Ehrenkrantz Ekstut Kuhn. However, during the week, the selection process was temporarily delayed by what appeared to be irregularities in the voting process. Some officials from the Port Authority claimed that Alexander Garvin, the LMDC's planning expert, had skewed his vote largely in favor of Beyer Blinder Belle. But Billie Tsien, the only architect on the development committee, defended Garvin's vote to the New York Times. "Judging is an expression of informed opinion," she said.
At a public hearing on May 23, Garvin stated: "We have participated, and will continue to participate, in an extensive listening process." He noted that the LMDC will follow published design principles drafted during the eight months since the attacks. He also stressed that no architectural selection process for rebuilding has been determined. "We are generating a planning study," he said, "not an architectural plan."
Tess Taylor is chapter editor of Oculus, the AIA New York Chapter Newsletter, and a frequent contributor to Metropolis. She lives in Brooklyn.