WTC owners to develop stores at site

January 4, 2008 12:44:11 PM PST
The owner of the World Trade Center site is teaming up with an Australian retailer to develop upscale stores and restaurants in the new office towers being built at ground zero. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved the $1.45 billion deal Friday with The Westfield Group, one of the world's largest mall operators.

The company held retail rights to the trade center complex before the twin towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. But Westfield sold them to the Port Authority two years later for $140 million after disagreements about how to rebuild the complex, preferring to recreate the trade center's lucrative underground mall instead of planned street-level shops at the new towers.

Westfield, which retained a first-refusal right to buy back into the complex, and the Port Authority are now sharing development costs and profits for nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space at three skyscrapers and in concourses connecting the buildings to a transit hub.

"It's a thrill for Westfield to be back," said Westfield Group co-managing director Peter Lowy. "We are excited to have the opportunity to reinvest in this great city and be involved with the redevelopment of this historic site."

Westfield will contribute $625 million and the Port Authority $825 million to build high-end stores and restaurants, half of them facing city streets that are being resurrected at the former superblock complex.

Downtown New Yorkers had been clamoring to return a major shopping center to the city's booming residential community. The underground shopping mall at the trade center was one of the most lucrative in the country before it was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Construction is expected to begin sometime this month on the first of the three office towers where stores are planned; they are supposed to be finished in about five years.