In any other circumstance, razing a beloved historic building elicits outrage from preservationists. This time, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) worked the homonym, approving plans to raise the Palace Theater, at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 47th Street, by 29 feet. New York’s PBDW Architects and historic preservation consultants Higgins Quasebarth & Partners will lead the theater-raising and subsequent renovation.
The lift will allow for 10,000 square feet of retail space on four levels, a new entrance on 47th Street with a 75-foot marquee, back-of-the-house space, a lobby 25-times the size of the current one, plus new bathrooms, the Wall Street Journal reports. Indianapolis-based Maefield Development is financing the move and renovation. When complete, theatergoers will enter through an escalator on West 47th Street to access the mezzanine lobby.
Completed in 1913, the 1,700-seat Beaux-Arts Palace was one of the largest vaudeville theaters in the city. Originally, the theater was ensconced in an office building on four sides, though that building was demolished in 1988. Currently, the 45-story DoubleTree hotel tower surrounds the structure. The LPC gave landmark status to the theater’s interior in 1987.
Though raising a theater in the middle of a crowded urban area poses some logistical challenges, the project management team is not worried. The existing truss will be reinforced. One part will be removed, and a full box will be built around the theater. Beams for the new platform will be installed before telescopic jacks are put into place.
The jacks they are using have twice the capacity needed for the weight of the structure, just in case. The existing structure will be raised one inch at a time.
It is not appropriate to move or obstruct access to an interior landmark to make way for private development, a request that seems to be on the rise as we saw last year with the clocktower at 346 Broadway. Approval of this application will be a clear communication of conscience, and indicative that our culture and art is merely secondary to a Times Square corporate chain store.
Proponents argue that the move allows both ground floor retail and expanded space for theater. Moreover, the Palace’s interface with the street will be enhanced by the move, as the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue is too busy for theatergoers to linger around pre- and post-show.
There’s no word yet on dates for the move.