Debate over WTC site heats up - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Debate over WTC site heats up


For now it sits empty, towering over the foot of Canal Street. But soon the World Trade Center and its site will undergo big changes.

A five-member committee has been selected to decide the building's fate by choosing one of three separate proposals.

Two involve redeveloping the 33-story building into a mix of commercial and residential space. A third plan, which city tourism leaders support, aims to tear the building down and replace it with park space and a massive monument.

People on both sides of the debate Tuesday sounded off on the ideas at a public hearing before the evaluation committee.

"We have a chance to clean up the river, turn it green and have a gateway to the city that goes back 300 years," said Rob Forman, who heads up the Audubon Institute. "Who would take a most valuable piece of public space, give away $100 million of taxpayers' money and build a building there?"

One woman in favor of preserving the building said it's an important part of the riverfront.

"It's just so valuable to what we are all about in terms of preservation, in terms of economic, in terms of jobs for our people," she said.

There is no debate that the now-empty building sits on a prime piece of real estate, but exactly what that means for the city's future is the main point of contention.

Some argue that the World Trade Center is historically significant and would be a major loss for the city's skyline.

"Today we heard, 'It's only a building, so let's tear it down and make green space.' Only a building? Well, St. Louis Cathedral is only a building. All of our historic buildings, they're only buildings. So let's tear them down and make green space? We have plenty of green space," said one preservation supporter.

However, others say the site should be opened up for all to use.

"It is really the central point of the city," said Melvin Rodrigue, chair of the Moral Convention Center Board. "We know that 95 percent of the visitors to the city want to access the riverfront. This is an opportunity for us to access the riverfront."

"This is public space. It belongs to every citizen, and I cannot imagine taking something that is public and turning into something that is private and for-profit, so that the only citizens that can enjoy it are people that can afford to own a home there or rent a room," said Toni Rice, president of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network.

Evaluation committee members said their goal is to make a final recommendation on the World Trade Center's future by mid-August.

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