When the new 11 Times Square skyscraper opens next month with a bunch of lawyers stored behind its glass display case, it will mark a milestone for 42nd Street: The end of the 30-year redevelopment saga that ousted the porn shops and prostitutes in favor of T-shirt vendors and tourists. The 40-story tower is on the last development site targeted for the Great Times Square Cleanup all those years ago, and the NYT's Charles Bagli recounts the tale of the dramatic transformation from the fascinating real estate, urban planning and political angles. Though many people hate the Disneyfied Times Square of today, if not for the stock market crash of 1987, it could have been worse. Really.
The original plan to bury Times Square's seedy past with huge skyscrapers blocked off from the street was revised when the market tanked and Times Square investors like Prudential threatened to pull out if forced to build in a bad economy. Sure, huge new skyscrapers were built anyway, but the delay cooled development pressures and allowed creative minds like architect Robert A.M. Stern to devise a new plan "that reconnected with the 'razzmatazz' of Times Square’s past by emphasizing entertainment, big garish signs, an eclectic mix of tenants and glassier, flashier office towers, with lobbies that seemed to flow onto the sidewalk rather than wall it off." So we have Robert A.M. Stern to thank for 15 Central Park West and Madame Tussauds? There's nothing that man can't do!
The exceptionally cool part of the Times' story is the interactive Rebirth of 42nd Street feature, a before-and-after look at The Deuce that points out what's new, what's old, and what's hidden behind giant banners for Spider-man musicals. So, now that that's over, how was it for you?
· After 30 Years, Times Square Rebirth Is Complete [NYT]