The next big change in the World Trade Center site landscape will be addition by subtraction as fences that have blocked much of the site from tourists, residents and area workers for some 12 years will be removed.
"It is important to shrink the amount of fencing . . . it will make the site more accessible for visitors and neighborhood residents alike," Catherine McVay Hughes, the head of the local Community Board, said. "We are thrilled with the progress in the last year."
A significant stretch of that fencing at the southeast corner of the site should come down in November with the opening of 4 World Trade Center -- the first of four planned towers on the 16-acre plot where the Twin Towers stood. The 7 WTC tower that opened in 2006 is on the block just north of the site.
Some of the fencing is made up of large plywood sheets -- with holes cut for passersby to peek in. Other stretches consist of cyclone fencing with razor wire along the top to discourage climbers.
Construction of 1 WTC, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, is to be finished on the northwest corner early next year, according to the Port Authority. The fencing at that corner will be removed soon after, and much of the fencing along the northern end of the property will come down when the Transportation Hub opens in 2015 and the temporary entrance to the PATH commuter trains is closed.
The hub will link 11 subway lines, the PATH tubes, all the trade center buildings and the World Financial Center to the west. Another transit hub, the MTA's Fulton Center, east of the trade center site, will connect 10 subway lines serving six stations. That facility, to open in June, will eventually be extended to the trade center site.
"This last year was a year of coming to fruition," said Andy Breslau, vice president of the Downtown Alliance, a business-oriented planning group. "You are really seeing a new World Trade Center take shape."
Dara McQuillan of Silverstein Properties, developer of three of the four on-site towers, walked inside the fences recently, taking visitors along a stretch of dirt that will become Greenwich Street, an old north/south roadway that was blocked by construction of the Twin Towers in the late 1960s.
Fulton Street, which had ended at Church Street, will open the site with an east-west roadway. And the new Cortlandt Way will be a pedestrian walkway, including an outdoor cafe, to serve as entryway from Church Street to the memorial pools in the footprint of what was One and Two World Trade Center. The Twin Towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"This whole site will be opened up to reflect the open street grid of the 1960s before the towers were built," McQuillan said.
He led the visitors into 4 WTC, where plywood protected the shiny security turnstiles that will be activated next month with the opening of the building. The granite lobby floor is still covered in places by brown paper and plywood. Visitors looking straight ahead see shiny granite interior walls reflecting the memorial plaza and its cascading water.
Superstorm Sandy did not affect the construction schedule, McQuillan said, and some increased costs from storm damage was covered by insurance. The Port Authority in May authorized $59 million to mitigate the impact of future storms at its facilities, including the installation of metal panels at PATH stations.
Construction on 3 World Trade Center, the next tower to the north, was halted after nine floors of skeletal work but is to resume as soon as Silverstein formalizes a lease with Group M and gets financing, McQuillan said. There is no completion date for Silverstein's 2 WTC on the northeast corner, which, at 1,349 feet, will be the second-tallest tower.
Most of the exterior work on 1 WTC is finished, including a 408-foot radio spire bolted to the roof in May. Interior finishing will continue into next year before the first tenant, Condé Nast, moves in, according to the Port Authority.
The entrances to the Silverstein towers will face into the plaza, and the retail spaces on the lower floors will face out on Church Street to separate them from the solemn memorial area.
The planned memorial museum beneath the plaza is scheduled to open early next year, but the board that runs the museum has been at odds with the families of some victims who object to, among other things, exhibits about the terrorists behind the attacks.
The terrorism associated with Sept. 11, 2001, affected much of the site planning. While the street grid has opened up, checkpoints will be in place and motorized entry will be restricted to taxis and authorized vehicles.
Delivery trucks will enter the site through a new Vehicle Security Center just south of Liberty Street, pass through checkpoints to underground loading docks. A new, two-block-long park will be constructed atop the structure.
Despite criticism about the pace of planning and reconstruction at the site from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan, and others, many involved said the development will be worth the wait.
"We always felt the focus on speed was misplaced and that time was necessary to deal with the emotional impact and to get it right," said Tom Wright, executive director of the Regional Planning Association, who started work with the agency the week after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"What we are seeing now are the fruits of doing things deliberately and doing things well," he said. "The benefits of that approach are becoming more and more clear."
Sites of rebuilt World Trade Center
1 WTC -- Joint venture of the Port Authority and the Durst Organization. Exterior completed. Interior finishing and prime tenant Condé Nast moves in in early 2014.
2 WTC -- Silverstein Properties. No scheduled start date.
3 WTC -- Silverstein Properties. Foundation and skeleton for bottom floors completed; anchor tenant negotiating lease. Construction to resume as soon as the next round of financing is in place, later this year or early 2014. Scheduled completion in 2016.
4 WTC -- Silverstein Properties. Interior finishing in progress. Official opening in November.
North and south memorial pools -- Open.
9/11 Museum (underground) -- Scheduled to open in early 2014.
Transportation Hub -- Scheduled to open 2015.
7 WTC to north -- Opened in 2006.
Liberty Park to the south -- Will open next year atop the Vehicular Security Center.