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Construction of the 75-story mixed-use tower on a parking lot just south of Pace University and just west of the NYU Downtown Hospital near City Hall is expected to start in January, according to Mark Donnenfeld, the chairman of the Seaport committee of Community Board 1.

The committee was given a presentation last night by Andrew Herman of the Department of Transportation of the planned reconstruction of Beekman Street, which is the southern boundary of the tower, which is being developed by Forest City Rattner and designed by Frank Gehry.

Rattner and Gehry have also teamed up for a massive project in Brooklyn that will create a new arena for the New York Nets as well as a phalanx of angled, tall office and residential towers, a plan that was recently heralded on the front page of The New York Times as creating a new skyline for Brooklyn. Forest City Rattner is the developer of a new headquarters under construction on Eighth Avenue at 40th Street for The New York Times. The Rattner/Gehry plan for Brooklyn was soon followed by a competing and smaller proposal for much of the same site from Extell Management.

The Rattner/Gehry design for the new tower to the south of the Manhattan entrance and exit to the Brooklyn Bridge has not yet been shown publicly or even shown to Community Board 1.

Mr. Donnenfeld said that the 75-story tower will be placed on the west end of the site with a 13,000-square-foot plaza at the east end. The tower will contain a new, 600-student6 public school as well as expansion facilities for the hospital. Originally, it was also intended to contain expansion facilities for Pace University, but that institution withdrew from the plan last year. The tower will also contain a mix of several hundred rental and condominium apartments, but no details have been released. Michele de Milly, a spokesman for the project, said today that it might have 200 to 250 condo units and 400 to 450 rental units. She also remarked that the developer maintains that construction will start in the first half of 2006.

Apart from the planned Freedom Tower at the former World Trade Center site not far away, this tower is one of the most anticipated designs in the city along with Santiago Calatrava's planned tower at 80 South Street for Frank Sciame. Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has been widely hailed as one of the most important designs of the last century and it catapulted him to the top of the list of the world's most influential architects. He designed a somewhat similar design for the same museum for a site south of the South Street Seaport along the East River but the museum abandoned the project recently because of funding concerns. Gehry also had submitted a design for the new tower for The New York Times, but he subsequently withdrew from that project, so this tower will be his first major project to be built in Manhattan.

In a September 5, 2004 article in The New York Times, architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote that Gehry's design for this tower "is conceived as a series of undulating glass panels that hang down over the building's structural frame like flowing drapery," adding that "The curtain-like surfaces split apart at various points, then peel open at the top to create an almost classical crown."

The rebuilding of Beekman Street and its sidewalks is expected to take about 18 months, according to Mr. Herman, but Mr. Donnenfeld said that such a schedule would be "total hell" and "not acceptable," given the simultaneous start of construction of the Rattner/Gehry tower and the fact that several of the surrounding buildings are residential and landmarks.

The new school is not expected to open before 2008.
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.