Friday, August 27, 2010

Bayonne Bridge, WTC Barter a Done Deal

While this is good news, it seems obvious to me $1B per project is an understatement for both. Looking forward, there WILL be cost overruns, committees put in place to determine 'best scenario', eminent domain questions... Still, the objective is to get the Bayonne Bridge ready for Panama Canal traffic, which it can't accomodate once the Canal is up to snuff by mid-decade, and dealing with that NOW is most likely the correct direction.

By Ryan Clark
BAYONNE, NJ - It's not just New Jersey and you, but also New York, that's "Perfect Together." The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gathered their Board of Commissioners on Thursday, appointed by the governors of each state, to work out a mutually beneficial deal involving the World Trade Center site and the Bayonne Bridge. At its core, the PANJ has agreed to help build Silverstein Properties Inc.'s proposed office buildings on the WTC site, at a cost of roughly $1 billion, through public financing and subsidies. Published reports say this bargain was agreed upon providing the PANY assist in the financing for the $1 billion revamp that the Bayonne Bridge desperately needs.

New Jersey in exchange for its help in providing financing and subsidies to complete the towers on the eastern side of the site will receive help for its $1 billion project of raising or rebuilding the Bayonne Bridge. This is a point of economic viability for the Garden State, as it risks having inadequate access to Newark Bay's port, should the bridge remain at its current height above Arthur Kill. The Port Authority did not return GlobeSt inquiries by deadline.

Currently, construction is underway to widen the Panama Canal to accommodate newer, larger cargo ships which would not fit underneath the Bayonne Bridge's status quo. Last year the Army Corp of Engineers calculated that the bridge would need to be raised to a height of 215 feet or rebuilt entirely, both of which fall around $1 billion to accomplish.

With the Panama Canal construction aimed at a mid-decade completion date, time is short for New Jersey to redo the span in question between Bayonne and Staten Island. And whether or not the money is there, questions will remain as to what it will require of the surrounding neighborhoods to raise the bridge a little over 60 feet. Whereas the WTC is building on top of where other offices once stood, the bridge is surrounding by residential neighborhoods on both side of the waterway.

For New York, the city now has a plan for developing and financing the entire WTC site, an endeavor roughly four years in the making, although the delays on the site have been much maligned. The "Development Plan," as the PANY refers to it, will call "for the immediate restoration of the east side of the site to at least street level, the rational phase in of the site's office towers with financing risk shared among all stakeholders, and the completion of the WTC Transportation Hub without significant additional cost or delay."

The eastern half of the site is dominated by the three towers proposed and lease-held by Larry Silverstein's Silverstein Properties, namely Towers 2, 3 and 4. Broken down, Tower 2 will be completed to street level and is offered the option of beginning construction on the office tower portion based on market demand, but with no public support. The insurance proceeds and Liberty Bonds which were to be used for all three towers are to be transferred over to Towers 3 and 4, making them more viable. A "Cash Trap" is being instituted for Towers 3 and 4 so that "public stakeholders get paid back before SPI collects profits from the net cash flows of Towers 3 and 4," says the PANY.

Additionally, the two-million-square-foot Tower 4 will receive credit support for a portion of the debt service not covered by rent payable under the City of New York T4 Space Lease from the Port Authority. As it stands, roughly 1.2 million square feet of space are already leased by the Port Authority and the city of New York. This project is estimated at $1.81 billion and anticipates funding from $1.36 million in Liberty Bonds and $450 million of insurance proceeds according to the PANY.

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