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World Trade Center deal may hasten rebuilding

By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The land owner and developer building the long-delayed new World Trade Center sealed a deal on Thursday to speed construction just over a year shy of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The accord announced on Thursday by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and developer Larry Silverstein confirms a financing framework for the project at the Ground Zero site in downtown Manhattan.

The vast project has been repeatedly stalled by lawsuits, clashes over design and security as well as disputes among state and local politicians over how much public money to grant Silverstein during a real estate decline.

The deal "will make certain the entire site is rebuilt while sharing the risk among all stakeholders in a way that protects our limited resources," said Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward in a statement.

The new World Trade Center plan includes five new skyscrapers, a September 11 memorial and museum and a transportation hub.

The Port Authority's One World Trade Center skyscraper -- formerly called the Freedom Tower -- now stands 36 stories tall on a construction site that includes running subway trains.

The bi-state agency is rushing to finish the transportation hub and the most important parts of the site's memorial to the nearly 3,000 who perished ahead of next September.

Silverstein is building three of the five towers at the site. The developer, who leased the twin tower complex just six weeks before it was destroyed, has already built Tower 4 to a height of six stories, his spokesman said.

As a result of Thursday's deal, Tower 4 is now fully financed and should open in 2013.

That's the same deadline as One World Trade Center, which is four years behind schedule.

Tower 4, designed with a metallic outer mesh, will be financed with insurance settlements and Liberty bonds, a subsidy Congress created to help revive the city.

Silverstein will need to raise private financing for Tower 2, which will feature a glazed crystalline form and diamond-shaped summit, and Tower 3, whose facade features diagonal supports.

"Tower 2 will be built to street level with the flexibility to start construction of the office tower based solely on market demand and no public support," the Port Authority said.

Silverstein had balked at building Tower 3 to the podium level to allow shops to open before offices are built on top of them, but that is how construction will proceed unless certain conditions are met.

The developer must pre-lease 400,000 square feet and raise $300 million of equity or mezzanine debt. The agency, state, and city would then kick in $200 million each.

The public money must be repaid before Silverstein can collect any profit from the net cash flows to be generated by Towers 3 and 4.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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