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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Trade Center Prospects Brighten

NEW YORK -- Plans to rebuild the World Trade Center site moved forward last week in a multiparty deal that removed two players from heated talks on the multibillion dollar project, the most ambitious in the history of the United States.

The agreement late last Monday among leaseholders Larry Silverstein and Westfield America Trust, and landowner The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey allows for the repayment of more than $650 million in loans.

Under the deal, Westfield sold its lease on the retail space at the complex, clearing a legal hurdle and creating the circumstances for Silverstein to repay the loan he took out two years ago to become the Trade Center's main leaseholder.

While the rebuilding project is still held up by a dispute over how much insurance money Silverstein is owed for the destruction of the Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, last week's developments suggest the rebuilding may be on track to meet the schedule set by New York Governor George Pataki.

The deal "will provide us with the necessary flexibility to proceed with the rebirth of the World Trade Center site as planned and on Governor Pataki's aggressive timetable," the Port Authority said in a statement.

Pataki set a Dec. 15 deadline for designs to go public for a memorial to the 2,752 victims in the attacks, and is looking for a cornerstone to be laid in time for the August 2004 Republican Party convention in New York.

"I am absolutely committed to meeting Governor Pataki's timetable for a complete and spectacular rebuild of the World Trade Center. This agreement takes us a long way toward achieving that goal," Silverstein said in a statement.

Under the deal, the Port Authority agreed to buy back the World Trade Center retail lease from Westfield. That allows the bi-state agency and Silverstein to go ahead and use insurance proceeds to repay a $563 million mortgage loan made by GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp. The lender financed Silverstein's bid to control the 6.4 hectare complex two years ago.

Last week's agreement removes both Westfield and GMAC from the rebuilding process. Both have made moves that were seen slowing the progress of the project because they had objected to details of the design or use of funds for the reconstruction of the complex .

"We are selling our interest in the World Trade Center to the Port Authority to help simplify the overall rebuilding process," a Westfield spokesman said.

Silverstein has been battling insurers over the amount of insurance payouts from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

In September, GMAC sued Silverstein and the Port Authority for not putting aside enough of the insurance receipts from the destruction of the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to pay off the mortgage loans on four buildings, including the twin towers that were toppled by two hijacked airplanes.

As a part of last week's deal, GMAC essentially ends its suit against Silverstein and the Port Authority, Silverstein's spokesman Gerald McKelvey said.

The reconstruction of the complex could cost between $4 billion and $7 billion by its estimated completion date in 2015 under a plan led by architects David Childs and Daniel Libeskind.