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Thread: Planned Downtown Cultural Complex

  1. #1

    Default Planned Downtown Cultural Complex

    Plans for Cultural Complex at Ground Zero Take Form

    As plans begin to take shape for a cultural complex at ground zero, American Express has agreed to support a Museum of Freedom that may be built there. The museum would present exhibitions about the terrorist attacks as well as about issues like women's equality and civil rights.

    An American Express executive said that the company, based in Lower Manhattan, decided to help sponsor the project because of its theme. "This will allow people to learn about freedom and hopefully cherish it more," said the executive, who would speak only anonymously in advance of any announcement. The executive said that the amount of the support had not been determined.

    The museum would be part of a two-building cultural complex as conceived by Daniel Libeskind, whose design for the 16-acre site was chosen earlier this year. The second building would house a performing arts center, which would probably become the home for the New York City Opera. In addition to its repertory, the opera company would stage musical theater at the hall that it may want to take on the road.

    As envisioned, the first floor of a Museum of Freedom would be devoted to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; the second floor would be dedicated to the history of New York City; the third would explore freedom from a national perspective; and the fourth would have an international focus.

    "We see it as the intellectual and educational complement to the emotional experience of the spiritual memorial," said Tom A. Bernstein, president of the Chelsea Piers recreation complex, who has been developing the museum over the last year. His partner in Chelsea Piers is Roland W. Betts, a director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city-state agency formed to direct the rebuilding of the Trade Center site. The Libeskind plan would also include a separate ground zero memorial park.

    How much the complex will cost, and how all of it would be paid for remains in question, particularly given the weak economy's effect on charitable giving. Those involved in the cultural possibilities for the site say they expect government and private money will be involved.

    "It would be multiple sources," said John C. Whitehead, chairman of the development corporation. "We would expect an organization that arrives to come with some money and a plan for a balanced operating budget with charitable funds included." Mr. Whitehead also said that tax-free federal Liberty Bonds might be used for one or both buildings and that "as a last resort, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation might have some funds to fill out a gap."

    Officials from the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York say they are interested in being part of a museum on the site. Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the historical society, met with Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Bernstein about what role his institution might play.

    Were the historical society to participate, it would also almost certainly keep its home on Central Park West, but it is undecided whether the Museum of the City of New York would remain in its building on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street or relocate to ground zero.

    The historical society and the museum have been in merger talks for some time. The museum has been trying to determine its future ever since the Bloomberg administration rescinded the offer to move the museum to the Tweed Courthouse, a promise made by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. The Tweed, near City Hall, is occupied by the Department of Education.

    The museum's director, Robert R. Macdonald, resigned after the Tweed plan fell apart. Susan Henshaw Jones, former president of the National Building Museum in Washington, took over in February and said pooling the resources of the two institutions would create a more complete historical picture of the city. "It's a wonderful venture because both of us are focused on New York and neither has a collection that covers the whole thing," she said.

    Mr. Bernstein said the freedom museum would examine social, economic and political issues through archival photographs, documentary footage and artifacts.

    "We want to have some place that gives context and history and meaning to the whole thing," he added. "There is no one museum that tells the story of our freedom."

    Also involved in the project are the documentary filmmakers Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. and his brother, Peter W. Kunhardt, who recently produced with their father "Freedom: A History of US," the 16-episode PBS series. The actor Christopher Reeve is also expected to play a role in enlisting the support of the creative community as he did with the Kunhardt series, Mr. Bernstein said.

    As to the international component, Mr. Whitehead said there was interest from several institutions. "Various museums around the world have indicated a willingness, indeed a desire for their communities to play a part," he said. "This might be a way for them to do that."

    The second cultural building at ground zero would be a performing arts center with City Opera as its probable primary tenant. "There has been no final decision," Mr. Whitehead said. "But I would say it looks favorable now."

    Mr. Whitehead said he saw the building as being about five stories high, with a large auditorium on the ground floor and two smaller stages above it, one for music and another for theater. He said that "various people" were interested in managing each of those theaters, but declined to be more specific, adding that rehearsal space and offices would also be included.

    The Joyce Theater has expressed interest in being part of a performing arts complex, adding the downtown site to its stages in Chelsea and SoHo.

    Irwin Schneiderman, the chairman of City Opera, said that in addition to the regular opera season, he anticipated producing or co-producing musical theater at a new auditorium "to supplement or complement the season."

    City Opera on Saturday concluded its run of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," and has a long history of producing musical theater. Mr. Schneiderman said the opera house might be used as "a launching platform" for productions that would then tour. "We might take things out on the road," he said.

    City Opera has been looking to leave its home in the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, which it shares with the New York City Ballet. Because the State Theater was designed to muffle footfalls for dance performances, the opera has long sought a more acoustically appropriate space.

    Some City Opera officials would also welcome the chance to move out from under the shadow of its larger, wealthier neighbor, the Metropolitan Opera.

    Considerable questions remain as to whether City Opera's audience would follow the company downtown. City Opera has been conducting demographic surveys to determine how much of a new audience it would gain from places more convenient to Lower Manhattan, like Brooklyn, Long Island and New Jersey.

    "Preliminarily, it's looking encouraging," said Paul Kellogg, the general and artistic director of City Opera.

    "We know we're going to lose not a large percentage, but a percentage of our audience," he added. "And we will need to make up that percentage from elsewhere."

    The company's move downtown is very much dependent on the development of transportation in Lower Manhattan, and City Opera executives said these plans for a transit hub looked promising.

    In addition, Lincoln Center executives have expressed doubt about City Opera's ability to sustain itself financially, much less raise money for a new building.

    Both Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Kellogg said there was considerable interest from potential corporate sponsors, though the officials declined to name any possible donors because these talks were still underway. "There are interesting prospects now that we're getting more specific," Mr. Schneiderman said.

    The philanthropist Robert Wilson had previously offered $50 million toward a new City Opera, but said he was "not enthusiastic" about the company moving downtown. Asked whether he would make his contribution if City Opera relocated to ground zero, Mr. Wilson said: "I doubt it, but I'm not sure. They would have to make a case."

    City Opera executives are scheduled to meet with officials at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation on April 14. "After the meeting, we will be in a position to make some kind of decision," Mr. Kellogg said. "One has to believe there are enough people who really want us to come downtown to bring that area to life."

  2. #2
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village

    Default Planned Downtwon Cultural Complex

    This article was later posted in Skyscrapers and Architecture, but since this article isn't Real Estate related we'll keep it there.

    go here

  3. #3
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI

    Default Planned Downtown Cultural Complex

    NICE! *Get some culture, get some transportation, get some skyscrapers and a memorial and voila - you got yourself a great area and an economic engine.

    It all seems (seems!!) to be finally starting to come together - HURRY THE HELL UP!

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