The rebuilding of New York's World Trade Center was set to begin on Thursday, just one day after officials approved plans to erect the Freedom Tower and other buildings where the Twin Towers stood until September 11.
Developer Larry Silverstein said construction crews will arrive at 8:30 a.m. to start work on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, the tallest of the buildings, which will stand at a height symbolic of America's independence.
The landowner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, approved the deal that Silverstein had agreed to on Tuesday, ending four years of often acrimonious debate over what to do with the site destroyed by the 2001 attacks.
Three other new office buildings and a residential tower will eventually surround a memorial, museum and cultural center dedicated to what relatives of the September 11 victims consider a sacred site. Construction would finish by 2011 or 2012.
Let's keep in mind that the world, the region, everyone was looking for how we rebuild the Freedom Tower and for what it represents in the rebuilding process, said Charles Gargano, vice chairman of the Port Authority board.
The board unanimously approved a conceptual framework that will leave some details for later. But officials said the hard part was over.
Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said he noticed a change in attitude from Silverstein toward getting it done after the famously hard bargainer was given what the Port Authority called a final offer last week.
I have instructed our construction team to mobilize into the site tomorrow so that we can begin construction of the Freedom Tower immediately, Silverstein said in a statement.
Clearly, there are some issues that need to be resolved, but for today, my focus, like that of all New Yorkers, is on getting the Freedom Tower underway, he said.
The project has been a source of contention since the immediate aftermath of the suicide hijacking attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The architectural master plan and memorial have sparked often emotional debate, although the more recent battle had more to do with dividing the billions of dollars at stake.
The agreement calls for Silverstein to build the Freedom Tower, but hand it over to the authority once it is completed.
It would be one of the tallest buildings in the world, and its height is symbolic of the year the United States declared independence from Britain.
Silverstein will build and keep three other office towers on the site, and the Port Authority will take over a damaged bank building on a neighboring parcel that will be rebuilt for residential use.
The two sides also agreed to a 62/38 split in Silverstein's favor over the two main sources of funding for the project: the $3.4 billion in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds and Silverstein's $4.6 billion in insurance proceeds.
Separate New York state and city agencies will be responsible for releasing $1.7 billion each in the Liberty Bonds, a low-cost form of financing created to rebuild Lower Manhattan.
The Port Authority also agreed to reduce the rent in Silverstein's 99-year lease for the Twin Tower complex, which he signed two months before the attacks.
Silverstein has already built 7 World Trade Center, a tower on the site of a building that collapsed on September 11.