Hidden behind a wooden construction barrier that obscures it from view and consciousness, the transformation of Times Square’s Toys ‘R’ Us into the flagship for global retailers Gap and Old Navy is now underway. Gone is the toy store’s iconic 65-foot Ferris wheel, disassembled and sent away, and so too its 25-foot anatomic T. Rex, shredded and burnt to pieces. But the dismantling of the toy store has also opened a portal into history.
As Richter+Ratner Builders' construction crews push on at the site, converting it into another grabby retail destination, they’ve uncovered the unique past uses of the Bow Tie Building’s different floors. Call it urban archaeology.
Demolition crews working on the store’s ground floor have uncovered the century-old foundations of a theater and orchestra pit that once occupied the Broadway site between West 44th and 45th streets. The Wall Street Journal notes that on another floor, terrazzo tile was uncovered that might have once been the original flooring from an old retail space.
Because of its location, the interior demolition and rebuilding face many obstacles: the subway lines that run beneath the building encourage a certain amount of caution and restrictions on street closures for shipping materials in and out cause logistical headaches. The site is also surrounded by the millions of tourists who visit Times Square daily.
On the other side of the construction scaffolding, crews will reconstruct the building’s interiors by infilling the famous atrium in which the Ferris wheel sat with 25,000 square feet of new floor space, adjust the heights of floor plates on the first and third floors, and reinforce the building’s original steel frame. A representative for Richter+Ratner notes that over half of the cost of the construction will go to structural steel, demolition, and concrete work.
When all is said and done, the new anchor tenants will each occupy 31,000 square feet of the 160,000 square feet once occupied by Toys ‘R’ Us. The multi-million dollar renovation began in February 2016 and will wrap up in early 2017.