We may be getting a redesign. Maybe...
The media companies and developer Larry Silverstein have brought in avant-garde Danish architect Bjarke Ingels to redesign 2 World Trade Center in the event of a move. Mr. Ingels, co-designer of Google Inc.'s planned new headquarters expansion in Silicon Valley, would replace renowned British architect Norman Foster as lead designer for 2 World Trade Center, these people said.
A deal is far from certain, as the companies are also considering a renewal of space at their midtown headquarters, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, which was built in 1973 as an expansion of Rockefeller Center. They expect to make a decision in coming months, these people said.
Even though the companies' current headquarters lease doesn't expire until 2020, it takes years to plan and construct a skyscraper. News Corp, which owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and 21st Century Fox were both part of the same company until 2013. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of 21st Century Fox, is also News Corp's chairman.
If the companies indeed opted to move to the World Trade Center, it would mark by far the largest change to the closely watched rebuilding since the tower designs were unveiled in 2006.
Mr. Ingels, a young and relatively obscure architect when Mr. Foster first designed the tower a decade ago, has quickly vaulted to prominence in the field. Eccentric and fast-talking, he is known for abnormally-shaped buildings and sustainable design. The plans for Google, for instance, call for a series of low-slung giant glass bubble-enclosed office building, resembling Jetsons-style architecture, but filled with lush indoor plant life.
"Architecture at its best is really the power to make the world a little more like our dreams," he said at a design conference last fall. "You take something that is a wild idea, like pure fiction, and you suddenly change it into hard fact."
His design would keep the World Trade Center tower at about the same height of the 1,270-foot design by Mr. Foster, and it would be about the same 3 million square foot size, people familiar with the design said.
21st Century Fox and News Corp homed in on the Trade Center as an option given that there are few existing buildings with sufficient space for the companies, and development sites on the far West Side have generally grown expensive compared with lower Manhattan, people familiar with the search said.
The planned 2 World Trade Center tower would have plenty of room, as the companies would occupy about half of the 3 million square foot building. But the existing design was deemed problematic because it wasn't considered ideal for studio space at the base--it was designed with bank-trading floors in mind--and because of the amount of infrastructure on the ground-level related to the PATH train station at the site, the people said.
If the tower got off the ground, it would also be a coup for Mr. Silverstein, who halted construction of 2 World Trade at ground level while he searched for a major tenant. While he would still need to secure financing for the tower, if he did, it would be the final element of the 16-acre redevelopment plan that was crafted in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Silverstein's 4 World Trade Center is complete, as is One World Trade Center, which was developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He restarted work on 3 World Trade Center last year, though still has much work to do: The 2.5 million square foot tower is just 20% leased.
Still, the interest by News Corp and 21st Century Fox signify a broader shift going on in lower Manhattan, which long struggled to attract new companies other than smaller firms looking for cheaper rents than in midtown.
In recent years, publishers Condé Nast and Time Inc. have opted to move there from midtown, as are advertising companies like GroupM, a unit of WPP PLC, which is moving to 3 World trade Center. In an unusual reversal of fortunes, many midtown landlords are now worried that young workers are warmer to downtown and places like Union Square, and they are worried about the large blocks of space tenants like Condé Nast have left behind.