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WTC developer says uncertainty may mean more delays

A general view shows the south pool waterfall as work continues on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center s
A general view shows the south pool waterfall as work continues on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center s

By Joan Gralla and Ilaina Jonas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Uncertainty about what to expect from the federal government's tax and revenue policies might further delay construction of two out of the five World Trade Center towers, the project's developer, Larry Silverstein said in an interview.

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center, demolished in the attacks of September 11, 2001, is already years behind schedule, because of lengthy battles over Silverstein's insurance claims, security, and designs.

Wall Street's recent summertime slide, which might puncture the economies of both the city and the country, last month cost Silverstein a major tenant for his Tower 3.

Disappointing profits prompted UBS AG to drop plans to move some investment bankers to the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan from Stamford, Connecticut.

The developer said he cannot build Tower 3, designed by Britain's Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners, with a facade that features diagonal supports, above seven floors until he get private financing. Landing UBS would have been a big help.

Silverstein said a lack of political leadership in Washington on economic policies could make prospective tenants delay any decision to move to the new buildings.

Businesses want certainty and predictability, and Washington has not displayed those qualities this summer, particularly in the fight over the debt ceiling and federal spending, he said.

"One of the things that creates uncertainty is not knowing who the leadership is, where it's coming from, what's going to happen tomorrow," Silverstein said on Monday. "With all this uncertainty it could be a while before things turn, but when the turn comes it can come pretty quickly."

Silverstein might jump back in the ring for the site of the former Deutsche Bank building, where Tower 5 is planned.

That tower had to be razed because it couldn't be repaired, a process that took years because of contamination and a 2007 blaze that killed two firefighters.

"I haven't thought about that (site), but at some time I'm sure that will come into our focus," he said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the 16-acre (6.5 hectare) World Trade Center property, one of the world's most complex construction projects. Four skyscrapers and a mass transit hub are planned for the site, which features waterfalls in the footprints of the former twin towers. An active subway line also runs through the complex.

Silverstein has clashed with the Port Authority over financing and its delays in readying the site. Under his current deal, the agency is building One World Trade Center, the 102-story skyscraper formerly called the Freedom Tower.

Silverstein's Tower 4, designed by Japan's Maki and Associates and which will be clad with a metallic mesh, is fully financed and should open in 2013. The Port Authority and New York City have leased offices there.

"Financing issues are not that critical to us," Silverstein said. Companies with leases expiring in the next few years likely will turn to the World Trade Center towers, he said.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

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