TIMES SQUARE — The building that hosts the Times Square ball drop on New Year's Eve will undergo renovations to transform it into a museum and observatory — providing an attraction that moves the focus away from "Elmos and topless women,” its operators announced.
One Times Square, which was built in 1904 to serve as offices for the New York Times and has attracted those ringing in the New Year since 1907 — now sits mostly empty with its exterior plastered with advertisements.
“We view this project as having a few opportunities,” David Himmel, chief of staff for real estate investment firm Jamestown Properties, which owns the building, told Community Board 5 Monday night. “First, telling the rich history of Times Square. Second, elevating the tenor of attractions, shifting the conservations away from the Elmos and topless women.”
The 18th floor will feature an observation deck from which visitors can see the New Year's ball and the streetscape of Times Square, with the 15th through 17th floors housing historical exhibits, he explained.
To ensure minimal impact on Times Square's pedestrian plazas, Himmel said there will be escalators guiding visitors into the basement level of the building, specifically for visitors to queue up. The ground-level improvements also include a renovation of the outdated Times Sq.-42nd Street subway station near the building's base. Himmel said they will be updating the entrance from its current two-turnstile design to a 15-foot-wide, ADA-accessible entrance with 10 turnstiles.
He noted that the project hasn't determined admission pricing yet, but that the fees would match those of other Manhattan museums. Jamestown will be working alongside the Times Square Alliance, which previously had an informal visitors center with historical displays at 1560 Broadway.
"We think as one enters Times Square, this can be a really strong anchor and welcoming presence for the area," Himmel said.
Alliance president Tim Tompkins said they were searching for another way to provide a resource for the area's history, after the lease ended at his organization's visitors center a few years ago. At the new center, the Alliance will serve as an "informal curatorial partner," Tompkins added.
“For a long time, we had put out this idea that it would be great to use the building somehow to celebrate Times Square, its history, and its relationship to New Year's Eve,” he said.
The project will take eight months to complete, with work starting in January after the ball drop, Himmel said. CB 5's Transportation Committee overwhelmingly approved of the plan.
“This has a really large improvement for the working community in Times Square, the people who are using the subway everyday to commute to and from their offices,” noted David Harris Sandler, chair of the board's Transportation Committee.