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WHAT SHOULD BE BUILT AT GROUND ZERO?

Almost every issue involved in rebuilding downtown remains unresolved. The area has become a not-so-blank canvas on which everyone wants to paint his or her vision of the new urban future.

"It is an opportunity to rethink our cities," says Jonathan Rose of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which promotes a compact, pedestrian-friendly design. "Rarely have we had a large site, where people accept density, that has world recognition, at the center of so much transit. It's almost like we have a chance to look at what we did wrong with urban renewal in the 1960s and do it right this time."

Certainly ambitious plans and ideas abound. Many envision a vibrant 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week community with businesses, homes and cultural institutions, all within easy access of an improved transportation system. Rebuild Downtown Our Town, a coalition of Lower Manhattan residents, businesses and professionals, and New York New Visions, a coalition of architects, planners and designers, have put forth plans for a mixed-use, mixed-income district, with connections to local and regional transportation and state-of-the-art communications systems.

Transportation advocates foresee new ferry terminals, links to commuter trains and an improved subway station at Battery Park. Franck Lohsen McCrery Architects, along with Scottish sculptor Alexander Stoddart have proposed a project they call Liberty Square whose centerpiece would be the tallest building in the world. It and nine other skyscrapers would surround a memorial square and monuments.

The Civic Alliance foresees a dense mixed use project on the trade center site -- but no extreme high rise buildings. And the New York City Opera, Joyce Theater and other cultural institutions have begun discussing a possible arts complex on the site.

Meanwhile, the families of many victims argue that the entire 16-acre area should be a memorial. Although this position appears to have been rejected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, it did get a boost from former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in his final days in office.

As discussions about all this continue, many involved in planning the future of downtown worry that Larry Silverstein, the real estate developer who held the lease on the trade center, could undercut all their plans. Silverstein has said he hopes to begin building on the site of 7 World Trade Center, just north of the main complex, by June. The planned building would be 1.6 million square feet and would allow Greenwich Street to pass through the site. Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg both said work should not begin at 7 World Trade Center until there is an overall plan for downtown.

Immediately after the attacks, Silverstein said he would rebuild the towers, but he has since scaled back his plans. In December, he said he hoped to build several office buildings on site, some of which could be as high as 65 stories, and include a museum, performing arts center and a memorial.

While politicians, business leaders, community residents, planners and architects discuss grandiose plans for the future, progress continues to be made. A temporary roadway will lead to the Battery Park Tunnel in about two months, and a pedestrian bridge will soon cross West Street linking Battery Park City to subway stations.

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