Developers are gathering information to make their pitches to build on the final plot of the World Trade Center site and, for the first time, apartment units may be built.

Officials opened up the possibility for residential development at 5 World Trade Center in a Request for Proposals.

5 World Trade Center is now a parking lot and command center for the Port Authority Police. This week, though, more than a hundred visitors walked around inside the gated area. They were developers, construction companies, engineers and architects.  

It’s a very exciting opportunity," said Carrie Villani with LERA Consulting Structural Engineers, "All the designs will have to be really carefully considered."

Many developers say they have a big decision to make, either propose building another commercial tower or, for the first time, a mixed use structure that includes residential apartments.

“I know there's going to be some residential development component here,” said Elizabeth Velez of the Velez Organization. “We’re looking to bolt on to the best team that’s out here."  Her family founded the Construction and Management Company that actually did work on the Twin Towers in the 1970's.

This project could include more than a million square feet of apartment units and at least 20% of them would have to be set aside on site as affordable units.

"What we've decided with the Port Authority, who really has the right to build that building, is that we should go out there and test the market," explained Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Chair Holly Leicht, "because we’ve heard a lot that there is an influx of a lot of office space, and this is a community that wants more mixed use, and would like some residential and particularly some affordable housing as well."

The structure could rise a maximum of 900 feet. That’s about half as tall as One World Trade Center, including the spire.

5 World Trade Center sits just south of Liberty Park and the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Just north of that are where the reflecting pools reside.

5 World Trade Center is on the location of the old Deutsche Bank. The building sustained significant damage during the September 11 terror attacks. Then in 2007 a massive fire broke out killing two fire fighters. The demolition process after the blaze took four more years to complete.

“We don’t want somebody to buy the site and then sit on dirt," said the Port Authority's head of Real Estate, Mark Spector. "We want something to happen,” he told Manhattan Community Board 1 last week.
The Port Authority of NY and NJ and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation explained to CB 1 what’s next.  The board has not taken a position, but some members have.

"We need more affordable housing. That's the reason why I’d prefer to see housing," said CB 1 member Patricia Moore, who is also a long time resident of the area.”

The site is already cleared for a commercial structure, but if the Committee to be formed by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority chooses a residential plan, there will have to be a lengthy process of public hearings that includes an environmental impact study. It's something some community board members and residents say is needed.

"This is an opportunity for really big location to really have some thoughtful planning on how it integrates into the surrounding,” said CB1 member and Battery park City resident Tammy Meltzer.

"Is that what’s missing from the World Trade Center site so far, or no?” I asked her. Meltzer answered, "Absolutely."

The deadline for developers to get their pitches in is September 20. Officials say they’ll likely pick a winner by the beginning of the new year.