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FIRM TO HANDLE TRADE CENTER

The World Trade Center is being turned over to a private management company under a multibillion-dollar lease agreement that could be finalized in the next three weeks.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre site in Manhattan, has been seeking managers for the complex for 2 1/2 years, saying the famous landmark would be more efficiently run by a private real estate firm.

The Port Authority is entering into a 20-day exclusive negotiating period with Vornado Realty Trust of Paramus, N.J., to manage the site under a 99-year lease.

The deal includes the Twin Towers buildings, in addition to two other buildings and a retail shopping area in the concourse underneath the plaza.

The Port Authority built the World Trade Center in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal project.

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