The New Victory, the Ford Center, the New Amsterdam -- 42nd Street has certainly changed its appearance over the past couple of years from a dingy, if deeply New Yorkish, stretch of porn palaces and novelty shops to a new center of Manhattan Theatre. Two more pieces of this glamorous puzzle will be put into place by 1999. That's when the Roundabout Theatre will move to the old Selwyn Theatre (which mostly rests on 43rd Street, while the entrance is on 42nd), and a brand new, 10-story edifice above it that will serve as a home for both commercial and not-for-profit theatre and ballet companies.
As reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a spokesperson from the New 42nd Street, the latter agency is managing the construction and overseeing of the structure, due in mid-1999 at a cost of $18.5 million. President Cora Cahan told the Times, "One of our missions, when we were given the task of helping rejuvenate 42nd Street, was to make sure that we brought life back to the blook. Unlike commercial theatres, this building will never be dark...there will always be a flow of actors and dancers and young people coming in and out of the building and bringing life to the street." The building will include a new 199-seat theatre.
According to the Times, Platt Byard Dovell Architects will design the building, which will use the Selwyn site and an adjacent one-story building (the Roundabout will use a separate venue connected by a walkway). Lighting designer Ann Militello will coordinate the building's lighting elements, essentially turning the whole building into a lit sculpture.
Some $11 million has already been raised towards what is currently called the "New 42nd Studios." Cahan told the Times she'd be more than happy to rename the venue after a corporate or individual donor. The building will keep its rental costs low to support the artists, so how will the rent be paid? From retail tenants and other properties on the block.
As for the last piece in the 42nd Street puzzle -- the still-abandoned Times Square Theatre -- that's still up in the air. Billboard Live backed out of a restaurant deal, but Cahan still thinks the venue wouldn't work as a legit theatre. Peter Carzasty, a spokesperson for the Kreisberg Group (which represents the building), told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 2), how the new building would incorporate the old: "Currently on 42nd Street is the entrance corridor to the Selwyn Theatre, though the bulk of that structure is on 43rd. Above that is an abandoned office structure. The facade is a landmark and must remain intact. Next door is another 'in fill property' also under the jurisdiction of the New 42nd Street. The new building will go up 170 feet, or ten stories, keeping the facade. It's similar to how the Lyric and Apollo were joined for the Ford Center."
Asked why, in a 10-story edifice devoted to the arts, only one actual theatre will be added, Carzasty said, "It's mostly a process building, specifically for rehearsal and workshop space and office space for theatre companies. Because it's subsidized, we can provide affordable rehearsal and office space to the non-profit community."
-- By David Lefkowitz