The metamorphosis of Times Square began two decades ago as block after block was slowly transformed. One of the more extreme makeovers can be found on 42nd Street, between Times Square and Bryant Park. As recently as a few years ago, the block was still attracting the homeless and discount stores. The block received a big boost when the Condé Nast building, the 48-story glass skyscraper that is also home to the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, opened in 2000.
But it wasn't until this month, when construction of the Bank of America Tower was finally completed, that the block took on a completely new feel and personality. "It's safer, it's cleaner and it's beautiful. It's the hub that connects to everywhere," says Nicholas Ghattas, president of American Properties Inc., which owns the Bush Tower, located on the south side of the block. The $2 billion, 55-story Bank of America Tower was a joint venture between Bank of America Corp. and the Durst Organization, one of the city's largest office landlords. The tower stands between 42nd and 43rd street on Sixth Avenue, diagonally opposite Bryant Park. The environmentally conscious skyscraper also houses on the ground floor the restored Henry Miller's Theatre, on 43rd Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway.
Another tenant is the American cuisine restaurant Aureole, which relocated from a townhouse at 61st Street and Madison. Owner Charles Palmer says he foresaw "a once in a lifetime opportunity" to reposition his restaurant by moving it to a location that is frequented by business executives, tourists and locals. After work hours, the bar scene buzzes. But there is still work to be done. Plans to turn the former Knickerbocker Hotel, at 42nd and Broadway, into a five-star hotel were scrapped after the building's former owner, Istithmar World Capital, the private-equity arm of the Dubai government's investment fund, handed back the keys to its lender, Danske Bank, after defaulting on its $300 million mortgage.
The building was sold in March to a partnership with New York real-estate developer Stanley Chera, Highgate Holdings and Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. The new owners plan to convert the 250,000 square feet of space above a Gap retail store into a hotel, but not a fivestar.