The much-anticipated Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the World Trade Center has passed several new milestones on the road from vision to completion in recent days.
Last week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) allocated an additional $89 million to cover construction costs for the project.
At the December 13 meeting of the LMDC’s board, PAC president Maggie Boepple, said, “I want to give you a taste of our plans. Seven-plus years ago, the first thing I did was to reach out to the community — to residents, workers, as well as artists, both locally and around the world. We asked over 400 people in New York City and elsewhere a fundamental question. What does Downtown need? What does New York City need? What does it mean to be a 21st century Performing Arts Center?”
“The answer we heard again and again,” she continued, “was that a 21st century arts center down here had to be so much more than a place to experience performance. It had to be a community center, a public space tapped into and reflective of the diversity of the City center, where everyone is equal and equally welcome.”
“In considering our mission,” Ms. Boepple added, “we recognize that the core of those we want to serve are our immediate community. People who make Lower Manhattan their home or place of work.”
She reflected on the PAC’s vision, noting that, “we arrived at the mission with four core tenets. One: we are home for original work. We produce. This distinguishes us from being a presenting house.”
“Two: our auditoriums are flexible,” she noted. “Each can transform into various configurations depending on how the artist or artists creating work for us want their piece to relate to the audience.”
“Three: the performance is connected to its community both locally and internationally,” Ms. Boepple noted. “Our Artists have access to the latest innovations in streaming live entertainment, creating opportunities to connect with local student groups and other audience members from around the world. For example, a Yo-Yo Ma masterclass in cello at the Perelman streamed into classrooms and school auditoriums across the five boroughs.
She concluded, “four: we are open and actively engaged with a neighborhood from sunrise until late at night. Alive all day we like to say. The Perelman will be a place to grab a coffee, study, encounter artists at tables working out a new moment in their production, people having a drink and a snack before a performance and after.”
“We will have public programming throughout the day,” she predicted, “including movement programs, educational programs, lunchtime brown bag music concerts, coffee poetry readings, and artists encounters. Yoga for Tots, even, or early morning tap dances.”
“In sum,” Ms. Boepple said, “the Perelman will be a community hub, a site for a multiplicity of connections, a great diversity experience for the City of New York and the world. We look forward to telling you more as it develops, and seeing how our artistic program comes into focus once we break ground in the spring. No matter what, we know you’ve never seen anything like it.”
Apart fromo the $89 million that the LMDC’s board voted to allocate to the PAC at the December 13 meeting, the building has slowly begun to emerge from the ground at the World Trade Center complex (along Vesey Street, bear the foot of Greenwich Street) for the last several months. Construction actually began in 2017, but was confined largely to work below ground until mid-2018.
Also earlier this year, the PAC signed a lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which owns the World Trade Center complex), authorizing the facility to remain there for 99 years, at a nominal rent of one dollar per year. (The same lease contains provisions for an optional extension of an additional 99 years, as well as the option for the performing arts center to purchase the space if occupies, also for one dollar.)
Around the same time, PAC officials announced that they had raised more than 80 percent of the building’s projected construction of of $360 million.
Now scheduled to open in 2021, the Perelman Center (named for the Ronald Perelman, the billionaire philanthropist who donated $75 million in 2016) will produce original, multidisciplinary performances in theater, dance, music, film, and chamber and new opera from emerging and renowned artists. When completed, the PAC aims to be a global hub for the creation and exchange of art, ideas and culture, and a major cultural presence anchoring Lower Manhattan.
The vision for the structure is nearly as bold as the performances it will house. The design, by architectural firm REX, calls for a visually stunning, translucent marble cube that will appear as a windowless, white geometric solid by day, but by night will be transformed into a glowing alabaster hexahedron, suspended above the World Trade Center Plaza. This effect will be achieved with the use of white marble, shaved so thin that light from the outside will penetrate the building’s facade during the day, while light from the inside with radiate outward through the structure’s skin during the evening, giving it a milky iridescence. Joshua Prince-Ramus, the principal architect at REX, hopes to harvest this marble from the same Vermont quarry that was used during the construction of two Washington, D.C. landmarks: the U.S. Supreme Court building and the Jefferson Memorial.
The facility within these walls will encompass 200,000-square-feet of space, including three auditoria (with 499, 250, and 99 seats), and a rehearsal studio, which will also double as a fourth venue — all separated by moveable, acoustic guillotine walls that allow for eleven different arrangements of space.
At the December 13 meeting, LMDC officials predicted that construction work on the next phase of the structure could begin as early as next April.