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A Win for Westfield?

On Dec. 18, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) unveiled nine proposals by seven teams for redesigning the World Trade Center site. And by the looks of them, shopping center giant Westfield can breathe a little bit easier. Westfield is the leaseholder of the World Trade Center retail concourse, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. Early in the planning process, Westfield had come under fire from some community groups because its intention to replace the retail space lost in the attacks seemed to conflict with plans to reattach the WTC site to the lower Manhattan street grid.

The design teams were assigned to set aside as much as 1 million square feet of retail space — doubling what Westfield lost. Moreover, architects Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and Charles Gwathmey all proposed rebuilding an underground retail concourse connected to a transportation hub, essentially duplicating the old setup that was yielding $900 per square foot in annual sales.

Only Peterson/Littenberg Architecture and Urban Design, the LMDC's in-house planning firm, substituted streetfront retail for enclosed shopping (above) — 1.8 linear miles of it. Streetfront retailing usually isn't as profitable as is shopping in a closed, contiguous space. Here, too, Westfield has little to fear: Critics immediately derided the team's proposal as uninspired.

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