FINANCIAL DISTRICT — After more than seven years of delays, the white-winged World Trade Center Oculus is ready to soar.
The sprawling centerpiece of the $4 billion WTC Transportation Hub is set to open to the public on March 3 at 3 p.m., Port Authority officials said.
This week, only half of the massive white steel and marble space, which is roughly the size of a soccer field, will be open for commuters — or those who just want to take in what has been deemed an architectural wonder and sign of resilience after 9/11 by some, and a symbol of excess for its huge cost by others, including the Port Authority’s own executive director.
Visitors will likely have many opinions about the vaulted steel ribs of the expansive Oculus, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
On a recent media tour, Calatrava, whose inspiration for the shape of the Oculus was a child releasing a dove into the air from his hands, called the project "the highlight of all I have done."
The transportation hub, conceived in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, has become a "symbol of endurance and resilience" and a "place that will honor the memory of our 3,000 brothers and sisters we lost on Sept. 11 — and it is also a monument to the everyday working people who pass through this space, it's a sign of respect and tribute to them as well," Calatrava said Tuesday.
Half of the Oculus will be open to visitors on March 3. DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg.
The station, which will ultimately connect 11 subway stations as well as the PATH train, was created to be an awe-inspiring space, in the spirit of Grand Central Terminal. It is also now one of the world's most expensive transportation centers.
In the next coming weeks, the eastern half of the Oculus will open, officials said.
Though the March 3 launch will not involve any fanfare, after Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said he would pass, calling the over-budget and delayed hub a "symbol of excess" — officials have decided to hold an opening ceremony sometime later in the spring, after the hub is "fully operational."
Eventually the bi-level Oculus will also be lined with shops and eateries, though that is not expected until the summer.
Along with future openings, the warmer months will also allow for the Oculus's skylight to open.
On Tuesday, officials were testing out the opening of the skylight, letting cool air into the bright space.
"We want to let air in, have a natural flow of air and energy," Calatrava said, standing below the giant white ribs, now slightly open. "Let the place breathe."
The skylight will also open on Sept. 11, in tribute to those killed during the attacks.
Once complete, the Oculus will also be used as an event space, likely hosting fashion shows, concerts or food tastings.
Several corridors inside the hub have already opened to the public, including PATH train platforms.
The Oculus was slated to open late last year, but several delays, including water leaks, have pushed back the opening.
360-degree video by Ben Fractenberg.