In a cordoned off and seemingly unremarkable construction site situated along the West Side Highway, a collection of high-ranking Brookfield Office Properties executives, construction managers and architects donned hardhats and stood in front of a symbolic pile of dirt that had been lined up neatly atop wooden boards.
Holding a platinum shovel, the sun refracting off its blade that’s been buffed to a flawless shine, Brookfield’s Sabrina Kanner, senior vice president of design and construction, joined eight of her colleagues in digging their shovels into the symbolic dirt while holding big smiles for the press cameras.
The occasion was the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new glass pavilion at the World Financial Center, seen as the complex’s new front door on West Street.
It is also part of the World Financial Center’s $250 million renovation project, which will include a new dining and retail center for the ever-changing landscape of Lower Manhattan.
Construction on the new pavilion will bring back several people who worked on the original construction of the World Financial Center when it was first erected in the late 1980s.
Thornton Tomasetti, the original structural engineer, and engineering firm Flack + Kurtz, are on board with the project, as is Rafael Pelli, the architect behind the concept for the glass pavilion.
Mr. Pelli’s father, César Pelli, was the original architect on the complex.
“The intention was to design it in a spirit that is sympathetic with the exsiting building,” said Rafael Pelli, during a post-groundbreaking nosh at a Brookfield Office Properties’ luncheon inside one of its conference rooms.
“The circumstances surrounding this building are different, particularly facing West Street,” he added.
“There was nothing to look out on to, there was no pedestrian life there. There was really a highway, it was a canyon that was primarily vehicular,” said Rafael Pelli.
The ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site, coupled with the MTA’s new Fulton Street Transit Center, gave Brookfield an opportune window to make improvements to the World Financial Center.
“It is clear that downtown is shifting towards a new place at 2013, 2014,” said David Cheikin, a vice president at Brookfield Office Properties.
The glass pavilion will feature, among other things, an eco-friendly and energy-efficient radiant floor.
“While we couldn’t actually achieve a LEED score because we’re modifying an existing structure, we are looking for any opportunity we could possibly find to use sustainable practices,” said Ms. Kanner.
This is the second of three phases that Brookfield Office Properties is undertaking for its $250 million renovation. The first phase, which kicked off already, is the development of a new dinning terrace, including a 25,000 square foot marketplace that will boast “epicurean delights,” said Mr. Cheikin.
A third phase, which will bring luxury retailer to the Courtyard area of the complex, is slated to begin later this year.