Anyone who has been through the itchy rash of a building known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal knows that it needs a total rehaul, and the Port Authority itself knows that most of all. Last month, the Port announced that it would be launching a design competition to replace the 65-year-old terminal with something capable of handling commuters’ present and future needs. A month later, the agency has detailed what it is, and what it is not, looking for. And what it doesn’t want, definitely, is another Transportation Hub.
The problem, of course, is that the Port has just completed Santiago Calatrava’s ambitious new terminal downtown, and everyone’s architectural and structural ambitions there led to aesthetic success but financial disaster. With the document titled “Port Authority Bus Terminal International Design + Deliverability Competition,” the authority has swung dramatically in the opposite direction, looking to avoid even a hint of the financial boondoggle that just past. The agency stresses that “the competition is not an architecture contest and will not be decided solely on aesthetic or design criteria.” The word to watch is that deliverability, right up there next to design. There’ll be public input at every step of the project. Basically, the Port Authority is announcing that it plans not only to accept but even to cultivate an unambitious building that’ll get done on time.
An early estimate of the project’s cost had it at around $10 billion. Contenders will be announced in April, an “independent jury” is supposed to pick a winner by September, and we expect to be thoroughly disappointed in the choice by the end of the year.