In an unusual but not unprecedented move, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission granted permission Nov. 24 for a construction project that will literally jack up the 1913 vintage theatre at 1563 Broadway by 29 feet in order to accommodate a new lobby, new dressing rooms, elevators, restrooms — plus retail space fronting on Seventh Avenue on the northeast corner of Times Square, where the current lobby is now, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A new lobby entrance will be built on the 47th Street side of the building, topped by a 75-foot marquee. The theatre's interior is landmarked and will be preserved as is. The effort, part of a $2 billion redevelopment project, is spearheaded by Maefield Development.
It will not be the first time a Broadway theatre was moved from its original site. The old Eltinge Theatre (a.k.a. the Empire Theatre) was shifted 170 feet west in 1998 as part of the renaissance of 42nd Street, and is now the AMC Empire 25 cineplex.
Tony Mazzo, who supervised that project, reportedly told the commissioners Nov. 24 that because the Palace Theatre has no interior columns for the most part, it is "extra strong." He was quoted as saying that while the project is complicated, there won't be a problem "as long as the building doesn’t know it’s moving," according to a report on the architectural website New York Yimby.
Though the 1913 original theatre was encased in the Doubletree Hotel when it was built in the 1990s, the two buildings remain separate, which will facilitate the construction. The theatre is owned by the Nederlander Organization. A request for comment was not immediately returned. Nick Scandalios, executive vice president of Nederlander Producing Company of America, was quoted by Yimby as saying the theatre is a "very special jewel."
Built by impresario Martin Beck and designed by Kirchoff & Rose, the Palace stage in its heyday accommodated the likes of The Marx Brothers, Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Nora Bayes, Ethel Barrymore, and Weber & Fields.
After five decades as a vaudeville mecca, the renovated Palace reopened in 1966 as a Broadway theatre with the original Sweet Charity. Over the years it has housed such musicals as Applause, Aida, Beauty and the Beast, Legally Blonde, The Will Rogers Follies, La Cage aux Folles, Woman of the Year, George M! and several classic Judy Garland concerts.