Days after New York marked the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it opened a new arts center Wednesday in the last area of Ground Zero that had not yet been redeveloped.
New York's state governor, the city's mayor and other local officials came together to open the Perelman Performing Arts Center, a project decades in the making intended to provide a space of healing and celebration of life at the site of the 2001 destruction.
It's the final piece of a project intended for the once-devastated area in Lower Manhattan where reflecting pools indicate an area of memorial, the museum a place of education, and now the arts center for renewal.
"I lost my husband, David. And each time I come to the site, my feelings keep changing. At first, a rawness filled with inescapable loss and longing," said Paula Grant Berry, a member of the jury that selected the design for the 9/11 memorial.
"But now, after more than two decades, and this may sound a little odd, I am also filled with something more hopeful."
In the aftermath of the attacks many advocates of building an arts center at the site repeated a line written by the legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, who in the days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated said: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
That line was repeated at Wednesday's ceremony, which featured a performance of Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's definitive ballad "Somewhere" from "West Side Story," as well as a "ribbon-connecting" in lieu of a ribbon-cutting, meant to symbolize unity.
- 'Crossroads of the world' -
The $500-million, 129,000-square-foot (12,000-square-meter) project at the foot of the World Trade Center received significant funding from the city's former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $130,000 to the development funded mostly with private donations.
The cube-like building encased in almost 5,000 marble tiles houses three primary theaters, which can be used independently or combined, with 60 different configurations and capacities ranging from 90 to 950 seats.
"The arts, as we all know, is the heart of what makes New York a beacon of light for people around the world," said Bloomberg at the opening ceremony. "And Lower Manhattan has always been a crossroads of the world and a cauldron of creativity."
The project initially stalled as focus went to the memorial and museum, as well as to the new skyscraper and an unwieldy transit hub and shopping mall designed by Santiago Calatrava.
But in 2015 architect Joshua Ramus won an international design competition intended to revive momentum, as magnate Ron Perelman donated $75 million in a bid to reboot fundraising efforts.
The finally-opened center intends to showcase both emerging and established artists from the worlds of theater, dance, music, opera and multi-disciplinary performance.
"What connects all the work across the eclecticism of the programming is what it means to contribute to civic healing, what it means to bring people together and create connections at this location, at the World Trade Center," the Perelman's artistic director, Bill Rauch, told AFP.