To Rein in Spiraling Cost, Design for Sept. 11 Memorial Shrinks

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NEW YORK (AP) – The new Sept. 11 memorial design, reshuffled and pared down to curb costs that were pushing $1 billion, will raise the display of victims’ names to street level and shrink the museum, but retains the original waterfalls.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki signed off on the more modest proposal outlined Tuesday. Last month, they asked developer Frank Sciame to come up with ways to rein in memorial expenses to a more manageable $500 million.

As preliminary preparation work began this spring on the memorial’s construction, contractors warned that the costs were spiraling, prompting officials to order the whittled-down design.

The mainstay of the “Reflecting Absence” design by architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker remains unchanged: two square pools with waterfalls that go about 30 feet below street level.

In the report, Sciame said he had considered eliminating the waterfalls, but decided they were too important to the “contemplative nature” of the design _ particularly because they will drown out the sounds of the city and allow viewers to get lost in the power and emotion of the memorial.

But he did snip more than $285 million from the cost, and estimated the expense of the new plan at $510 million. The changes include shrinking the size of the museum, removing portions of the galleries around the two reflecting pools where the names originally were listed and consolidating all entrances into one through a visitor’s center at street level.

Some of the reductions, which include cutting $11 million from the estimated $61 million annual operating expenses, came simply from recalculating some figures. Sciame also suggested expenses would be better managed _ and perhaps minimized further _ if the Port Authority, which owns the site, took charge of building the memorial.

Two government agencies leading the rebuilding at ground zero have pledged up to $350 million to pay for the project. The memorial foundation has struggled to raise money _ with $131 million so far _ and the head of the group quit last month amid the criticism. Fundraising was suspended so that the design kinks could be worked out.

In addition to trimming costs, Sciame said another factor in relocating the victims’ list was that it will allow mourners to pore over the 2,749 names whenever they feel drawn to the site. In the original design, visitors would only have had access to the below ground areas during regular hours.

He arrived at the final design proposal after meeting with victims’ relatives, design consultants and the memorial’s architects _ many of whom had conflicting priorities.

“There are so many different constituencies and so many different opinions, and it was difficult to know that it wouldn’t be perfect,” he said in an interview. “But the process was a thorough one and I think we had enough information to come to a point at which the memorial can go forward and be in alignment with the vision and the budget.”

Tuesday’s announcement marked the beginning of a seven-day public comment period. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which oversees the rebuilding of the site, will consider the public comments and adopt a final design by the end of the month, officials said.

The construction timeline remains on schedule, with the memorial to open by the eighth anniversary of the attacks _ Sept. 11, 2009.

Pataki praised Sciame for conducting a “thoughtful and thorough process,” and said the redesigned landmark “honors our heroes’ lives, mourns their passing, provides solace to their loved ones and tells their story to the world.”

Bloomberg said Sciame’s work produced a landmark that “allows us to retain the essential design of the memorial and memorial museum, while identifying significant cost savings.”


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