Nine years after the September 11 terror attacks leveled the World Trade Center's twin towers not a single new building has been completed in the area known as Ground Zero. But in the last few months, a deadlock between local authorities and developers has eased, and prospective tenants for the flagship building, 1 World Trade Center, have begun to line up. Progress is even more visible at the September 11 Memorial and Museum.
In late August, crews began transplanting the first of 400 Swamp White Oak trees into a plaza at Ground Zero, where nearly 2800 people died on September 11, 2001. The three-hectare site will be a memorial to all those killed in the terror attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and outside Washington. Joe Daniels, the president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, told reporters he was pleased with the recent progress.
"We've been working with Port Authority for the last few years, and it is an incredibly complex construction job, and we fully appreciate all the desire to get this done," he said. "The reality is that there's been a tremendous amount of good work happening over the last few years, and these trees are a beautiful reminder of that."
The trees are expected to grow to a forest canopy more than 24-meters-tall, shading visitors below, and plaques bearing the names of those who died. Nearby, waterfalls will plunge into two square, recessed pools set deep in the footprints of the twin towers.
"To see these trees starting to soar to the sky on a day that you know, is not dissimilar to the way 9.11, 2001 was," Daniels said. "It's just a beautiful reminder that this is going to be a place, a sacred place, where people are going to come and really come together."
While the memorial is slated to open next year, the September 11 museum's opening date has been pushed to 2013. New York officials say they expect the Memorial and Museum to become the city's top tourist destination.
And major companies are expressing interest in leasing office space in five new commercial skyscrapers to be built at the World Trade Center site. New York Governor David Paterson spoke earlier this year about his expectations for the area, calling it the new "crown jewel" of lower Manhattan.
"It will be an international financial hub and attract world travelers who are anxious to see evidence of the human spirit overcoming adversity," he said.
1 World Trade Center is now over 35 stories, and rising one floor a week. At more than 541 meters, it will be the tallest building in the United States when complete. Developers say it's being constructed according to the most current environmentally sustainable building methods. Among its first expected occupants are a China-based business, Vantone Industrial, and the magazine publishing company Conde Nast. Bank of America reportedly may also become a tenant.