Cash-strapped Greek Orthodox church stops work on WTC shrine

St. Nicholas shrine's cost ballooned to $78M from $20M

Rendering of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. (Credit: Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)
Rendering of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. (Credit: Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)

Severe financial mismanagement has prompted the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to stop work on its St. Nicholas shrine at the World Trade Center.

The archdiocese, which raised $37 million in donations to pay for the Santiago Calatrava-designed shrine, ran out of funds, the New York Times reported. “Effective Dec. 5, 2017, Skanska USA has terminated its contract with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America on account of GOA’s defaults in making payments,” Thomas Perry, the director of the project, wrote in a letter sent to subcontractors.

The Byzantine-inspired structure, which is to be sheathed in marble, was projected to cost $20 million when the design was announced in 2013. But that number ballooned to $35 million by the time the ground was broken in 2015. When the church’s 50-foot dome was completed in 2016, the figure was $40 million. As of this month, the cost had reached $78 million — with only $49 million pledged.

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In October 2016, the archdiocese disclosed a “severe and complex financial deficit,” the Times reported. Jerry Dimitriou, the executive director of the archdiocese who oversaw the shrine project, has since resigned. In November, the archdioceses ordered an independent audit, which will be conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and BakerHostetler.

The St. Nicholas Shrine was a modest four-story structure located at 155 Cedar Street before the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2011, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gave the church the site on the eastern end of Liberty Park. The archdiocese has a 198-year lease, paying $1 a year.

In an email, the archdiocese said it hoped construction would resume this spring. It said construction of skylights and parts of the glass curtain wall were continuing offsite. [NYT] E.B. Solomont