By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The construction pit where the Deutsche Bank building used to stand won't remain empty for long.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. plans to turn the site into a gathering space for tourists visiting the 9/11 memorial, which is opening this fall. On Thursday morning, the LMDC board voted to allocate $800,000 to build a concrete plaza to welcome the tourists and distribute tickets to the memorial.
Without the plaza, there could be a bottleneck at the entrance to the memorial on West Street, said Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
"This area is critical to ensuring a smooth flow of visitors that does not impact the surrounding streets and sidewalks," Daniels said.
The plaza will likely be in place for several years, until the construction around the memorial finishes and the Trade Center site fully opens to the public.
The LMDC initially planned to construct the new plaza itself, but board member Julie Menin raised objections, citing the LMDC's inexperience in construction. The LMDC now hopes that either the 9/11 memorial foundation or the Port Authority will build the plaza.
The concrete platform will be at street level, surrounded by a fence, so it will not have views into the World Trade Center site. It will only be open to visitors who have reserved timed tickets to the memorial.
Daniels said the goal is to open the plaza on Sept. 12, the first day the 9/11 memorial opens to the public.
The plaza sits on the site of the future Tower 5, which has been put on hold for the foreseeable future because of low demand for new office space.
Avi Schick, chairman of the LMDC, said he was glad the site could begin serving the public now.
"To have people use [the site] in a productive way is a wonderful thing," he said.