The World Trade Center Memorial in Pictures, Numbers, and Dollars

Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is still under construction. The outdoor memorial was completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011 and has received an estimated 4.5 million visitors so far, but the much-anticipated underground museum is not scheduled to open until 2013 or 2014 due to financial obstacles. In total, the Memorial and Museum are expected to come in at the hefty cost of $710 million, according to the site’s designer, the World Trade Center Foundation, which is chaired by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. From the memorial’s website:

The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker created the Memorial design selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.

The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history. [1]

After reading or watching the film adaption of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, one can only hope that this memorial fills the void the towers left in the heart of New York City. Set in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, long before the memorial was begun in 2006 and completed in 2011, the young protagonist of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close undertakes a quest around New York City looking for clues from his father, who perished in the attacks and could only be memorialized by his family by burying an empty casket. This breathtaking memorial now offers such families a physical site for mourning with the names of each one of those lost engraved around the pools. The decision to make the memorial two depressed pools rather than above-ground monuments is itself symbolic; instead of covering the towers’ footprints with concrete to feign closure, the pools cauterize the site’s wounds in steel and attest to the indelible loss of 9/11.

Over a year ago, debates arose over funding the massive project in this time of fiscal uncertainty. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the site’s owner which is managing the construction, and the WTC Foundation, which designed the memorial and museum, had been unable to come up with the funds necessary to complete the museum, so construction stalled. Last night in a breakthrough deal, Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came to an agreement that will restart construction on the museum and defer costs from taxpayers to the WTC Foundation [2]. Still undecided, however, is how the Foundation will foot the $60 million yearly bill for operating the memorial and museum—with the fountains amounting to $4.5-5 million and private security to $12 million [3]. The WTC Foundation claims it has enough donations to operate the first year or two and keep the above-ground portions of the memorial free, but it may have to charge a fee or suggested donation for entrance to the underground exhibition. Many have pushed for the National Park Service to contribute a portion of the annual costs, but Congress won’t approve the additional funding. By comparison, the National Park Service spends $3.6 million per year on the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and $45 million on Arlington National Cemetery, which gets 4 million visitors a year.

The World Trade Center’s original cost in 1973 was $525 million—just over $2 billion in 2012 dollars [1]. The site was leased to a private owner for the first time just six weeks before the attack in July 2001 in what became the largest real estate deal in New York City history when Larry Silverstein purchased a lease of the entire complex from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for $3.2 billion. When the complex was destroyed, Silverstein received $4.55 billion in payouts from the site’s insurers and has since led the reconstruction of the site. On May 30, 2002, less than a year after the towers collapsed, the WTC recovery operation came to a ceremonial end, marking the completion of the removal of more than 1 million tons of concrete and steel, but construction on new projects did not begin until 2006.

With the help of $10 billion in federal funds, the site was prepared for the reconstruction still in progress today. The new World Trade Center complex is slated to have five skyscrapers, of which only the first, the 52-story 7 World Trade Center is currently completed. One World Trade Center, also known as the “Freedom Tower,” will become the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and the third-tallest building in the world by pinnacle height when it is completed in 2014. The 104-story building tops out at a symbolic 1,776 feet in reference to the year of America’s independence. Condé Nast, the New York-based publisher of magazines such as Vogue, GQ, and The New Yorker, will be One WTC’s primary tenant, occupying over a third of the building’s 3 million square feet [4].

Silverstein will retain the lease for the planned buildings WTC Two, Three, and Four, while One (the “Freedom Tower”) and Five will be owned by the Port Authority. Though Silverstein began ownership of the property through an ordinary real estate deal, his commitment to rebuilding the World Trade Center has since become a massive personal project. Speaking this morning on CNBC, Silverstein called reconstructing the WTC “the passion of my life” and estimated that the entire complex should be completed by 2016 or 2017 [5].

One World Trade Center, illuminated in red, white, and blue, and "Tribute in Light," an exhibition of 88 searchlights illuminated every September 11 by the WTC Foundation to memorialize the towers

One World Trade Center and Memorial


[1] World Trade Center
[2] “Deal on Sept. 11 Museum Is Reached, N.Y.’s Cuomo Says,” Bloomberg
[3] “WTC memorial magnificent, but at a steep price,” Associated Press
[4] “World Trade Center returns to New York skyline,” CNN
[5] Larry Silverstein on CNBC

Images via
Yahoo and the Associated Press
Squared Design Lab and the Associated Press

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