Stalled Shrine

Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center church halts construction over nonpayment

Architecture Development East News Newsletter
Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center church halts construction over nonpayment. A model of Santiago Calatrava's new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine.
(Courtesy Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)
Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center church halts construction over nonpayment. A model of Santiago Calatrava's new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. (Courtesy Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)

Construction on the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine at New York City’s World Trade Center was stopped last week, as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) defaulted on their construction payments. As first reported by The Pappas Post, the Archdiocese’s mismanagement of already-allocated funds has left the future of the Santiago Calatrava-designed shrine in doubt.

The reconstruction of St. Nicholas has been hampered by setbacks and controversies since the destruction of the original 1916 church on 9/11. After years of negotiations between the Archdiocese and the city government over plans for the World Trade Center complex, a formal, $1 a-year, 198-year lease for the church’s land was granted to the Archdiocese just this year. With the reveal of Santiago Calatrava’s ribbed, Hagia Sophia-reminiscent design for the project in 2013, it seemed like plans were finally moving ahead.

The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church juxtaposed against the original World Trade Center towers. (Courtesy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)

The new shrine, with Skanska USA as the head construction firm up until this point, had broken ground without a formal lease in 2014 and topped out in 2016, with plans to open in 2018.

Skanska has now broken with the archdiocese over their employer’s failure to pay. In an open letter obtained by The Pappas Post, Thomas Perry, the project director, wrote:

“Effective December 5, 2017, Skanska USA Building, Inc. (‘Skanska’) has terminated its contract with The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (‘GOA’), on account of GOA’s defaults in making payment under the Owner Contract. Skanska is demobilizing from the Project site.

“Skanska is continuing its pursuit of payment from GOA under the Owner Contract, together with any other remedies it may have on account of GOA’s breaches. We will advise you when there is progress toward a resolution with GOA.”

According to The Pappas Post, the Archdiocese’s failure to pay is the symptom of a financial crisis rocking the GOA, as restricted funds have been used to pay off a widening deficit. Despite bringing in $30 million a year, as much as $3.8 million has allegedly been moved out of construction funding for the shrine, and the Archdiocese is reportedly facing bankruptcy, a charge that the GOA denies. Still, in the face of employee layoffs and the recent construction freeze, it seem that the group’s finances could be facing closer scrutiny by outside groups moving forwards.

As a result of the stoppage, the Archdiocese has since retained the firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) and BakerHostetler LLP to independently look into how the allocated money was spent. The GOA has said that it remains committed to the church’s reconstruction.

Related Stories