Manifest Density

In 1985, the agency first designated Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties to develop an office tower on the site of the Coliseum exhibition center by Columbus Circle. It quickly hit hurdles: litigation, an economic downturn, the loss of a financial partner, another downturn. Boston hung on for nine years in on-and-off renegotiations before the deal ultimately collapsed, in 1994. (A decade later, a building finally did rise: Time Warner Center, co-developed by Related, and anchored commercially by its namesake.)

On the West Side, the most relevant question is whether Related will indeed sign on the dotted line with the M.T.A. Such an act—due to happen by Jan. 31, per Related’s agreement with the agency—would subject the company to rent worth $1 billion over a 99-year lease, an amount reached near the real estate market’s peak and one that adds substantial pressure to start building.

Mr. Cross, for his part, insists Related expects to commit at that price by January, even in the recession, as the opportunity to control the land is tremendously valuable and the rental payments aren’t all that painful.

“We think that we can complete the transaction without having to go and immediately start building buildings, so it still proves to be a long-term good hold,” he said. “It’s not a small price to pay in the sense that it’s tens of millions of dollars a year. But it is a relatively affordable price in the context of a 12 million–square–foot development.”

“It’s not a question of delay, delay, delay,” Mr. Cross added. “We believe fundamentally that the market will come to us sooner rather than later.”

ebrown@observer.com