In the heart of Times Square, amid a barrage of tourists and billboards, taxi cabs and LED lights, stands an abandoned theatre covered in scaffolding. Though it’s located in one of the busiest entertainment districts in the world, the structure has stood empty for nearly three decades.
As the nation’s retail industry began to decline, the theatre struggled to find an owner that could afford its coveted location. Many have tried, and failed, to implement their grand visions for the site, which dates back to the early 20th century.
In the 1990s, a restoration group called The New 42nd Street undertook the mission of renovating seven neglected Times Square theatres. Of all their historical projects, the abandoned building at 215 West 42nd Street is the last to be refurbished.
After interviewing more than 100 applicants, The New 42nd Street finally landed on a developer to convert the old theatre into a 52,000 square-foot retail center, featuring glass walls and a two-tiered outdoor terrace.
Take a look at the building’s century-long transformation, which is set to be complete in two years’ time.
In 1920, the theatre opened as a live Broadway playhouse.
The first performance to debut was The Mirage, starring actress Florence Reed.
The structure was designed by Italian-American architect Eugene de Rossa.
The New York Times called it “simple, spacious, handsome, [and] comfortable.”
In 1934, the building was converted into a movie theatre, which became popular among WWII soldiers on leave.
Source: Wall Street Journal
By the 1970s, the building was considered a discount theatre, showing third-run slasher and action films.
During that time, Times Square became known for its adult entertainment shops and peep shows.
The site continued to screen movies until 1990, when New York took possession of the building.
The structure, which is now shrouded in scaffolding, has received numerous proposals for its redevelopment.
The theatre was leased to the fashion retailer Ecko Unltd. in 2005, but the company backed out of the lease four years later.
In 2012, a company purchased the site for a film presentation on the history of Broadway, but the project was canceled due to financial woes. Others have attempted to restore the building to a Broadway theatre, or use it as a space for special events.
The building will now became a 52,000 square-foot retail complex featuring entertainment and restaurant space.
The theatre was purchased in the fall by Stillman Development International, which paid a whopping $US100 million to lease the property from the city for up to 73 years.
The building’s renovations including lifting the original limestone by five feet. Offsite experts will also restore the theatre’s proscenium arch and ceiling dome.
Notable features include a 23-foot glass overlook and outdoor terraces on the third and fourth floors.
The developer is looking to secure a major tenant like Apple or Amazon.
The renovations will be completed in 2020, exactly one century after the theatre was built.
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