A new arts center on the site of the former World Trade Center in New York should be open by 2017 or earlier, despite delays in funding and design issues, a city official said on Thursday.
The Lower Manhattan Performing Arts Center, designed by Frank Gehry, is expected to be built where a temporary commuter railway station now stands on the 16-acre (6.5 hectare) World Trade Center complex.
Fundraising has proved challenging, with the center's pricetag estimated at more than $400 million.
Construction of the center will be complicated because it will sit on top of underground railway tracks - and the 1,000-seat theater will have no columns.
Even with these obstacles, New York City's cultural affairs commissioner said the center could open ahead of a 2017 target.
"That is depending on the final design of the building," said Kate Levin, after a board meeting of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), whose goal is to revive the downtown area devastated by the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Like all the World Trade Center projects - the skyscrapers, the memorial and museum, and the mass transit hub - plans for the cultural center have been contentious.
Only one of the four institutions initially offered space at the center still plans to move to the complex.
The LMDC unexpectedly failed on Thursday to include $1 million of funds the arts center sought to hire staff.
The Performing Arts Center is also waiting for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to turn over $155 million of funding that has been allocated for it.
"There is some concern about how the entire project will be funded and how the structure of the funding will be going forward," explained David Emil, LMDC president. He added that the agency wanted to wait for a clearer financial picture.
Avi Schick, LMDC chairman, suggested the funding request might appear on the agenda for the October board meeting.
Officials say the size of the new theater will give artists, directors and producers an alternative to the only two options the city now offers: small theaters with around 450 seats or much larger venues with thousands of seats.
"I believe the performing arts center is a crucial plan for the building of the World Trade Center site because the attack on the World Trade Center was in essence an attack on American culture," Emil said later.
(Reporting By Joan Gralla; editing by Andrew Hay)