New 42nd Street's chairman, Marian S. Heiskell and president, Cora Cahan, will on June 21 commemorate the opening of the New 42nd Street Studios, located at 229 West 42nd St, a facility that will provide rehearsal, office and studio space for nonprofit performing arts groups. Judging by impressions made during a walk-through tour conducted by New 42nd Street executive director Cora Cahan, the rehearsal and theatre spaces at the new facility are spacious, open and highly versatile.
On June 21, an evening ceremony will be held to mark the opening of the building from 6:30 - 9 PM.
The New 42nd Street Studios are housed in an 84,000 square foot, $29.6 million building located on West 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The ten-story structure features high design architecture. It shares the same block as other high-profile entertainment companies including Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre located next door at 227 West 42nd, the multi-screen AMC Empire 25 Theater, Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre across the street and SFX Entertainment’s Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
Certain tenants and long-term uses for the facility are already determined: New 42nd press materials indicate that the facility will serve as the headquarters of The New 42nd Street itself, as well as providing leased office space to performing arts organizations such as the neighboring Roundabout Theatre Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Parsons Dance Company. (Parsons will participate in the open house preview by rehearsing in the facility along with the New Professional Theatre, Peter Pucci Plus and the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab.)
Construction on the facility was made possible by both public and private funding. The New 42nd Street says it secured $14.1 million -- including funding from the developers of the four office buildings at each corner of 42nd Street, as designated by the governing 42nd Street Development Project. Heiskell and Cahan subsequently embarked on a $15.5 million capital campaign that has raised $12.2 million to date. In terms of a funding breakdown, New 42nd materials state that the new "Duke on 42nd Street Theater was named in honor of Doris Duke and in recognition of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s generous grant of $3.5 million. The New York Community Trust – LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund launched the campaign with a $1 million grant, and Senator Roy M. Goodman endorsed the project with a $500,000 appropriation from the Community Enhancement Facilities Assistance Program, administered by the Empire State Development Corporation. The City of New York and The Council of the City of New York designated a capital grant of $2.5 million in support of the campaign. Generous contributions from The New 42nd Street Board of Directors and the New York State Council on the Arts further helped to propel the campaign, building on other grants received from corporations, foundation and individuals. A recent gift of $1,750,000 from an anonymous donor already has sparked new gifts, and the remaining $3.3 million continues to be raised from the public and private sectors."
New 42nd said that additional outstanding naming opportunities include the rehearsal studios, office space, dressing rooms, lobby areas and the building as a whole. Another recent naming of a theatre in the area, the American Airlines Roundabout Theatre (the former Selwyn), provided a long-term multi-million dollar infusion to that company's operating budget, although it did generate controversy over the commercialization of Broadway.
On the ground level, the new studio facility features a lobby entrance adjacent to the American Airlines Theatre, as well as a retail space that will be controlled by the New 42nd. The 199-seat Duke on 42nd Street is located on the second floor and second floor mezzanine of the studio facility.
There are 14 studios occupying five floors of the building. They are described in press materials as "column-free, with sprung floors and ceiling heights of approximately 13 feet clear, and offer appropriate floor surfaces, sound systems, and secure storage areas. Rehearsal studios are supplemented by dressing rooms with showers, toilets, and lounge facilities. Offices and support spaces on three floors are pragmatically designed, with ceiling heights of 10 feet."
New 42nd president Cora Cahan predicts that the studio building "will immediately become a landmark in the heart of the Theater District." Founded in 1990, by State and city officials, The New 42nd Street Inc. is "an independent, non profit organization, charged with revitalization of seven historic theaters on West 42nd Street." A major developer in the area, New 42nd holds a master lease on properties on the block and controls 87,000 of the 320,000 square feet there.
-- By Murdoch McBride