A battle is brewing for the airwaves over Manhattan.
The owners of One World Trade Center are planning to install a broadcast antenna in the 1776-foot building's spire in a bid to lure some of the more than two dozen television and radio stations currently broadcasting from the Empire State Building.
The move—reviving an earlier broadcast plan that was dropped out of financial concerns—would inject some competition into the skies for the Empire State Building, which since the collapse of the original World Trade Center towers in 2001 has been the go-to broadcast site in the city.
"Our expectations would be to become the premiere broadcast facility in New York City," said Thomas Bow, senior vice president at the Durst Organization, the development firm that controls One World Trade in a partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The building, currently under construction, is slated for completion at the end of 2013.
A spokesman for Malkin Holdings, an owner of the Empire State Building, declined to comment.
The Durst Organization expects to be able to take in about $10 million a year in rents and fees from television and radio stations drawn to the tower, the company said.
That is compared with the $16.1 million the Empire State Building generated from broadcasters in 2010, according to a securities filing. The only other main competitor is 4 Times Square, which is owned by the Durst Organization and primarily serves as a backup location for broadcasters, and would offer itself as a backup under the new broadcast plan.
The plan, which came after Durst Organization executives pitched the Port Authority on the idea, calls for other changes to the planned 408-foot spire on top of One Trade Center. Its architectural cone would be stripped away, putting in place a thinner, more functional spire that the Durst Organization said would save about $20 million.
The revision, however, drew criticism from the building's architect, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, people familiar with the matter said.
Under the agreement, Durst will put up the approximately $7 million of infrastructure and about $20 million of costs to build out the broadcast space for tenants, the company said. The proceeds would be split between the two owners, although Mr. Bow declined to give specifics.
The Port Authority pulled back from that route three years ago when it became concerned with putting in more money into the tower and the agency began worried that there wouldn't be enough interest from broadcasters.
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