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Trade Center Set to Combat Middle Age

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Kristin Moore
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« on: April 10, 2011, 01:58:04 am »

Trade Center Set to Combat Middle Age
By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: December 10, 1991

 The World Trade Center, still sleek on the outside, is unmistakably aging on the inside and in need of hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations if it is to hold its place in a competitive real-estate market.

Some of its shortcomings are subtle -- by today's computerized standards, for example, the elevators that climb the 20-year-old, 110-story twin towers of the center do not move efficiently.

But others are far more glaring. The center's claustrophobic underground shopping concourse has none of the stylish innovations that have brought light and color to newer malls, including some nearby. A 10-Year Program

To correct these problems and others, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the buildings, is about to initiate 10 years of renovations, spending $500 million to $800 million to spruce up one of the most prestigious and lucrative jewels in its far-flung empire. The Trade Center -- with much of it commercial office space -- earned $409 million last year, about $110 million more than its operating costs.

How much the Port Authority spends on renovations, authority officials said, will depend in part on how much tenants are willing to contribute.

Some changes will take place far from the public eye. The building's electrical system must be upgraded to handle growing demands from new technology like the fax machine. The center's vast air-conditioning hub will also need attention. Situated five stories underground, the refrigeration plant contains seven monstrous machines capable of cooling 50,000 houses. There, center managers say, more machines must be added to counteract the heat that will be generated by the new electrical wiring that is planned.

But other modifications will be in full view, like the extensive international food court that under preliminary plans would be constructed adjacent to the outdoor stone-floored plaza between the twin towers. The complex's first Japanese restaurant -- long sought by its numerous Japanese tenants -- is to open within months in the underground shopping concourse.

Though most specific plans are subject to approval by the Port Authority's board, the agency's highest-ranking officials, including its chairman and executive director, are firmly committed to the project.
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 02:00:16 am »

 "No matter how good-looking the building is, if we can't meet the needs of our business tenants, they won't stay," said Stanley Brezenoff, the executive director of the Port Authority. "We feel as though we're a vital complex, we're competitive now, and this is really an effort to remain competitive and strong in the future."

Though stung by the recession, the trade center is hardly in disrepair. Port Authority officials emphasize that the complex, despite some aging parts, is safe and running smoothly. And with 11 percent of its space vacant -- albeit more unleased space than it has had in years -- it is still far healthier than lower Manhattan as a whole, which has 20 percent of its commercial office space open.

The center is now such a money maker that its revenues pare much of the annual, gaping deficit for the PATH rail line, which the agency took on as part of the deal in the 1960's that allowed it to build the towers. Victim of Its Own Success

The trade center has in some ways become a victim of its own success. By reviving lower Manhattan, it helped draw in new competitors like the World Financial Center, which opened in 1985.

Like other new office developments in the region, the World Financial Center presents restless businesses with an attractive alternative to the twin towers. Add to that mix a sluggish real-estate market, and the center has little choice but to upgrade.

"Not only do businesses want a good financial deal, they want a high quality building with all the amenities," said Mr. Brezenoff, the Port Authority executive director. "I've personally gotten involved in talking with tenants in order to hold them here and attract them here. I didn't expect that, but it's necessary."

The trade center must also devise a way to attract the residents of Battery Park City, TriBeCa and even Hoboken, N.J. -- people who were not part of the neighborhood when the towers went up and who see the the 64-store shopping concourse as a congested passageway to the subways and PATH trains.

"There are cheap stores in there," said Carol Graham, who works at Kyowa/Saitama Bank on the 60th floor of Tower One. "I never shop there."

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/10/nyregion/trade-center-set-to-combat-middle-age.html?ref=worldtradecenternyc
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 02:02:21 am »

(Page 2 of 2)

Others complain that the dimly lighted concourse is too difficult to get around, too packed with banks and too sparsely populated by restaurants. And it seems to pale in comparison to the Winter Garden, the spectacular glass atrium in the World Financial Center ringed with upscale shops and snappy restaurants.

"You come to the World Trade Center and you expect the concourse to be something fantastic, something you might find only in New York," said Keith Rakow, a translator at Daiichi Kangyo Bank, on Tower One's 48th floor. "Really, it has no more character than an old suburban mall."

Trade Center officials have already added some trendy tenants aimed squarely at young professionals -- among them a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop and the Tie Rack. More are on the way. And an effort is being made to turn some of the blander storefronts into bouquets of color and light. There is also serious talk of the food court, as well as construction to let in sunlight.

Of more pressing importance are the center's 250 elevators -- 99 are in each tower, with the rest spread among the Vista Hotel, the United States Customs House and three other office buildings. Known as the buildings' vertical transportation system, the elevators carry 50,000 center occupants and 70,000 visitors each day.

At the time the center opened, the elevators were considered revolutionary because they borrowed the concept of express and local service from mass transit. While they move quickly, once you get on, the elevators are notoriously slow to get to prospective passengers. "Tenants don't accept waiting times beyond 30 seconds," said Robert C. DiChiara, the general manager for program development for the center, who adds that the expectations are reasonable. An Efficiency Problem

The problem -- one of efficiency, not safety -- lies in the outdated electrical switches, housed in small closets around the complex, that act as elevator traffic cops. The solution, Mr. DiChiara said, would be replacing the switches with new microprocessors that reduce waiting time and give passengers a smoother ride. The Port Authority is seriously studying the option, Mr. DiChiara said.

Another problem is electricity. As tenants turn on thousands of computers, fax machines and photocopiers each morning, they are demanding more electrical power than planners ever imagined. For now there is enough electricity to go around, but center managers say the towers are rapidly approaching their limit.
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Kristin Moore
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 02:04:29 am »

 Again, relief will come deep underground, this time in a small room where snarls of fat wires known as feeders transport electricity into the building from a nearby Consolidated Edison sub-station. Under current plans, additional feeders would be added and new circuit-breakers and wiring would be installed to circulate that new power throughout the towers, said August K. Preschle, the general manager of the trade center. A Prestigious Magnet

For all the flaws conceded by its own managers, the trade center is still a prestigious magnet for airlines, shipping companies, brokers and foreign banks. And only the Sears Tower in Chicago is taller.

"It's a very famous building, even in Japan," said Toru Kukihara, president of Fuji Bank and Trust Company, the center's largest Japanese tenant. "Most of the Japanese people know One World Trade Center and Two World Trade Center."

And though she complains that the concourse is "a drag," Adrienne Brown, a receptionist at a law firm in Tower One, said the complex still inspired awe.

"I am so amazed, just by the height, the view of the skyline," said Ms. Brown, who works at Brown & Wood on the 58th floor. "I can't believe I work in the World Trade Center."

Photo/Diagram: "At a Glance: The World Trade Center" The complex is so big that a wide-angle lens is needed to get a relatively unobstructed view of all seven buildings in a single photograph. The lens, aimed to the west, tends to make straight features like buildings and streets appear to be bent. 1. North Tower * 110 stories * 1,368 ft. tall, plus 316 ft. TV antenna mast on top * 4.1 million rentable square feet of space 2. South Tower * 110 stories * 1,362 ft. tall, plus 316 ft. TV antenna mast on top * 4.1 million rentable square feet of space 3. Vista International Hotel * 22 stories * 265 ft. tall * 821 guest rooms 4. Southeast Plaza Building * 9 stories * 119 ft. tall * 600,000 rentable square feet of space 5. Northeast Plaza Building * 9 stories * 119 ft. tall * 700,000 rentable square feet of space 6. U.S. Customs House * 8 stories * 130 ft. tall * 800,000 square feet of space 7. [ no name ] * 47 stories * 634 ft. tall * 1.6 million rentable square feet of space Heights measured from street level. (Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
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